Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) is a maritime traffic monitoring system, similar to air traffic control, established by the maritime administration (DGRM).
Typically, VTS systems employ radar technology, VHF radiotelephony, and Automatic Identification System (AIS) to monitor ship movements and ensure safe navigation in limited or restricted navigation areas, namely by organizing traffic through traffic separation schemes (EST), reducing the risk of accidents and mitigating any resulting damages, particularly to the environment.
In Portugal, the competent authority for the coastal VTS system, for reception of ships in distress and for activation of the National Plan for Reception of Distressed Ships (PNAND), designating places of refuge in case of ships in distress, is DGRM, exercising its powers as the National Authority for Maritime Traffic Control (ANCTM), namely under the terms of point bb), No. 2, of article 2 of Decree-Law No. 49-A/2012, of February 29th.
In addition to the monitoring and follow-up carried out at DGRM’s Maritime Traffic Control Centres (CCTM), the VTS system and service has a number of other capacities, and DGRM is the national authority for the European maritime information-sharing network, which ensures sharing of information related to maritime safety, security and surveillance.
Besides coastal VTS, DGRM also plays an important role on the VTS ports infrastructure as well as data sharing with GNR's Integrated System of Surveillance, Command and Control (SIVICC).
Mainland Maritime Traffic Control Centres (CCTMC)
Operation of the VTS System occurs at the Maritime Traffic Control Centres (CCTM), which are situated in two distinct locations in the Continental territory. These two Centres ensure 99.99% availability per year and in the event of failure of one of them, the other is permanently available and operational personnel can be transferred without any associated loss or unavailability.
These Control Centres ensure that Portugal complies with the following services:
- NAS - Navigation Assistance Service
- TOS - Traffic Organization Service
- INS - Information Service.
These three services are the total services which a VTS can offer, providing Portugal all three. Equally, VTS Centres also function as Maritime Assistance Service, a service established by IMO.