- navigation may vary given port and waterway traffic characteristics. However, certain common elements of a VTS (where such systems are deemed necessary) may be applied.
- The decision to establish a VTS in a given port should be made cooperatively by the USCG and the port user/ stakeholder community. It is not the intention of dialog participants to invalidate existing navigation safety systems established by states, pilot associations, or other entities but rather to provide guidelines for the implementation of future VTS systems.
Every mariner has the responsibility to operate vessels in a safe manner. In addition, the USCG has the statutory obligation to ensure the safety and environmental protection of U.S. ports and waterways. The USCG is the federal agency with primary responsibility for ensuring port safety and as such should play the leading role by ensuring that the mariner's navigation information needs for safe passage are being met.
Waterways users are seeking enhanced navigation capabilities that would be compatible with new VTS systems but that would also have utility beyond a VTS-covered area. Safe navigation and environmental protection outside of port boundaries—in coastal waters, rivers and other inland waterways, as well as on the high seas—are equally important.
Dialog participants strongly endorse the widespread use of Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) employing Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) and onboard transponder technologies. These technologies provide a foundation for effective navigation safety, both within and outside areas where VTS systems are determined to be necessary. They also provide for improved vessel-to-vessel information exchange in ports and waterways in which no VTS system is established. Dialog participants believe that national use of AIS technology on the greatest number of vessels is essential both as a foundation of a VTS system, where such a system is necessary, and as the basis for improving navigation safety. Dialog participants strongly urge the USCG to take the lead both domestically and internationally in developing equipment and procedural standards that will promote universal use of AIS technology. Although port conditions and user/stakeholder needs may favor the establishment of VTS systems in selected ports, dialog participants believe that widespread use of AIS can serve as an effective navigation safety system.
Basic Information Needs of a Mariner to Ensure a Safe Passage
Dialog participants identified the following as the basic information needs of a mariner to ensure a safe passage:
- up-to-date knowledge and/or information regarding the route to be transited;
- timely, relevant, and accurate information about other vessels within the area that might affect safety or the decision making of the mariner (this information should include vessel identity, type, size, position, course, and speed);
- timely information about emergency and environmental conditions that might affect safety or the decision making of the mariner;
- reliable bridge-to-bridge communications; and
- transmission of relevant information to the mariner in a manner that does not distract from the task at hand, particularly in narrow, confined channels where there is heavy traffic.
Existing navigation aids and tools, pilotage systems, navigation management systems, and regulations may be sufficient to provide this information effectively to a mariner given the characteristics of a particular port.
Factors to be Considered in Determining Whether a VTS is Necessary
As noted above, dialog participants agreed that existing navigation aids and tools, pilotage systems, navigation management systems, and regulations may be adequate to meet a mariner's information needs for safe operations in a given port. Dialog participants agreed that the process of determining whether a VTS is necessary in a particular port should include the USCG and port users/stakeholders. Questions to be considered in making this determination include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:
- What existing local navigation management systems are in place and how effective are they?
- What are the existing or likely future conditions in the port with respect to traffic density, traffic patterns, and complexity of traffic or vessel movements?
- What are the sizes, types, and numbers of vessels operating in the port area?
- What is the history (including the causes) of accidents, casualties, pollution incidents, and other vessel safety problems within the port area?
- What are the physical limitations of the port?
- What types and amounts of hazardous or environmentally sensitive cargoes are transported within the port?
- What are the prevailing conditions and extremes of weather and oceanography in the port?
- What are the environmental, safety, and economic consequences of having or not having a VTS within the port?