Regulation 12 - Vessel Traffic Services


  • Contracting Governments to establish VTS where traffic volume or risks justify it.
  • VTS to follow guidelines adopted by IMO
  • VTS can only be mandatory in territorial seas
  • Ships to be encouraged by Administrations to use VTS
Regulation 12
1. Vessel traffic services (VTS) contribute to safety of life at sea, safety and efficiency of navigation and protection of the marine environment, adjacent shore areas, work sites and offshore installations from possible adverse effects of maritime traffic.
2. Contracting Governments undertake to arrange for the establishment of VTS where, in their opinion, the volume of traffic or the degree of risk justifies such services.
3. Contracting Governments planning and implementing VTS shall, wherever possible, follow the guidelines developed by the Organization*. The use of VTS may only be made mandatory in sea areas within the territorial seas of a coastal State.
4. Contracting Governments shall endeavour to secure the participation in, and compliance with, the provisions of vessel traffic services by ships entitled to fly their flag.
5. Nothing in this regulation or the guidelines adopted by the Organization shall prejudice the rights and duties of Governments under international law or the legal regimes of straits used for international navigation and archipelagic sea lanes.

* Refer to the Guidelines on Vessel Traffic Services adopted by the Organization by resolution A.857(20).
MCA Guidance
1. Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) are provided world-wide to improve navigational safety and efficiency, safety of life at sea and protection of the marine environment. There are two types of VTS: Port and Coastal, and there is a clear distinction between the two. A Port (or river) VTS is a service provided when entering or leaving ports or harbours or when sailing along rivers or through waters which restrict the manoeuvring of ships. A Coastal VTS is mainly concerned with vessel traffic passing through a sea area. Reference is made to the IMO Guidelines for VTS (Resolution A.857 (20)), which offer guidance on design and operation of VTS systems.
2. In most ports and within territorial seas, participation in VTS is mandatory under local regulations. Information on available Vessel Traffic Services is given in the Admiralty List of Radio Signals (ALRS) Volume 6 parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 and the IALA VTS Manual. MCA strongly urges all UK ships to make use of any VTS that is provided. The MCA will keep compliance of vessels with VTS under review and if performance is considered unacceptable, a more regulatory approach may be taken.

The Guidelines on Vessel Traffic Services (Resolution A857(20)) and MSC/Circular 952 make reference to the IALA Guidelines on VTS - see IALA Website

Reference should also be made to the following Merchant Guidance Notices, which explain the relevant Guidelines set out in IMO Resolution A857(20) and MSC/Circular 952:

MGN 401 (M&F) - Navigation: Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) and Local Port Services (LPS) in the United Kingdom

MGN 401 (M&F) Amendment - Navigation: Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) and Local Port Services (LPS) in the United Kingdom

MGN 434 (M+F) - Navigation: Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) - Training and Certification of VTS Personnel


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