Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) and the management of shipping traffic generated extensive research activities in Europe in the 1980s. With the increasing introduction of advanced technology there is a need to improve the VTS operator's understanding of the technical solutions offered by VTS equipment, and to adapt the applications using new technologies to real-life requirements.
The main objective of COMFORTABLE was to develop new tools for VTS to help operators recognise and assess traffic situations including the evaluation of risk. Special attention was to be paid to human factor issues when integrating these enhancements into the VTS operator's Traffic Situation Display (TSD). The goal was to provide operators with better tools without increasing workload.
The project has developed prototype enhancements that apply new opportunities recently made available by technological advances. The project used a technology-led approach combined with user-forum workshops (VTS operators and managers) and interactive procedures to evaluate operator's awareness of traffic situations (SATest, Situation Awareness Testing). The resulting enhancements relate to:
- The traffic situation display - including preliminary specifications for a VTS-ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System), a layered approach to TSD design, collision warning for dense traffic coastal VTS's, and short-term path prediction in non-dense traffic VTS areas;
- The regional traffic image - including processing methods to construct the state of traffic in any regional sea area including estimated time of arrival (ETA) at port of destination;
- The use of the short-term past to predict the short-term future - including recognition and assessment of traffic situations that provide the users with statistics on traffic events (improved EPTO tool, European Permanent Traffic Observatory);
- Data flows and data links within and between VTS's - including specification of data flows within a VTS to enable data sharing over local and regional networks.
The project has produced a set of recommendations including:
- active encouragement of the user forum as a resource for the conception, design and testing of tools for VTS;
- support for basic human factor research and in particular the use of situation awareness testing;
- further research in the area of short-term and long-term prediction/presentation factors;
- adoption of a standardised electronic chart display by VTS-ECDIS;
- application of the project results to the design of VTS and VTMIS (Vessel Traffic Management and Information Systems) that share data on the traffic image.