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European study for baseline and advanced regional and coastal traffic management

European Union
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport mode
Waterborne icon
Transport policies
Transport sectors
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

Vessel Traffic Management and Information Services (VTMIS) is a concept for the provision of maritime information services in response to public and private demand. It aims to minimise risks for safety and the environment while maximising the efficiency of waterborne transport. The primary objective of EMBARC was to identify and demonstrate how safety and efficiency in waterborne transport may be enhanced whilst recognising the value that certain derived information may present to other transport modes, thereby improving interconnectivity and interoperability between modes.

Recognising that Vessel Traffic Management and Information Services (VTMIS) may be seen as a component of Transport Management, the focus was placed primarily on the optimisation of VTMIS. Links to other transport systems were identified through the identification of the key stakeholders. In the context of this project VTMIS may be conducted on a 'local' scale (in ports, their approaches and adjacent coastal waters), or on a 'European' scale (all waters falling under the jurisdiction of a Member State, including SAR and MPRZ waters). This project focuses attention on the needs of both 'local' participants and national Maritime Administrations.

The following key goals were set for this project:

  • To encapsulate the requirements/needs of VTMIS (Vessel Traffic Management and Information Services) stakeholders through the exploitation of current and emerging technologies within Vessel Traffic Management: the set of measures, provisions, services and related functions which intend to minimise risks for the safety and the environment, whilst maximising the efficiency of waterborne transport;
  • To examine appropriate measures and to realise the benefits for waterborne transport, e.g. the mitigation of risk in specific maritime regions and the enhancement of transport efficiency;
  • To explore the possibilities of enlarging the scope of VTMIS to hitherto unused or underused applications.

EMBARC had the following objectives:

  • To formulate a common understanding through shared experiences of what constitutes best practise in the operation of Vessel Traffic Management and VTMIS;
  • To develop a standardised methodology, based on current practises and experiences, for data entries in the formulation of traffic images; 
  • To ensure that accurate and useful reports may be extracted, such as incident reports that are necessary for statistical purposes and for safety assessments, as well as traffic reports that are required for traffic analysis and traffic management; 
  • To identify the information requirements of port VTSs (a service implemented by a competent authority to manage vessel traffic flows in a local area), VTMISs and transport communities to achieve optimal solutions for their own requirements;
  • To examine and determine optimal solutions (technical and administrative) for the transfer of traffic data, based on its availability and integrity, between port VTSs, Maritime Administrations and transport communities;
  • To determine the technical and administrative options based on the transfer of traffic data between different jurisdictions so that 'over the horizon' traffic images may be obtained by the different Maritime Administrations;
  • To examine the options and provide a practical solution as to how VTMIS can contribute to tracking of cargo from consignor to consignee (down to pallet and package size) within its jurisdictional boundaries; 
  • In what way VTMIS can be effectively linked to shore-based data management systems. To determine how this process can be seamlessly interfaced with 'GALILEO'; 
  • To determine the potential and practical application of AIS and other location devices for the identification of special category vessels. These categories include ferries, high speed craft, deep drafted vessels, hampered vessels, small craft (assuming that low-cost, reduced specification IMO-compatible transponders become available); also, vessels involved in incidents (broken down, safety breaches, drug interdiction, etc); 
  • To establish common standards for the presentation and monitoring of AIS derived data on traffic images;
  • To develop a generalised methodology for the formulation of a Regional Traffic Image using AIS, Long Range AIS (LR-AIS), manual data entries (which will be necessary for the foreseeable future), data transfers to and from port VTSs as well as reco

The methodology adopted considers:

  • Development of common references for present and future applications based upon or within VTMIS, including:
    • operational procedures;
    • technologies;
    • education and training;
    • legal, organisational and financial aspects;
    • formal safety assessment;
    • human factors;
  • Consolidation of ideology concerning VTMIS applications that have been considered/developed for ports, port approaches and coastal use and, where appropriate, to demonstrate the validity of the techniques proposed. Subject areas include validation of VTMIS links; tracking and tracing; enhanced navigation assistance; vessel traffic prediction; search and rescue; and Regional Traffic Images (RTI);
  • Expansion of VTMIS into the more far-reaching work of Maritime Administrations; a key stakeholder. Namely, the area of responsibility concerning the safety of traffic and the protection of the environment in all waters where a Member State holds jurisdiction. In this respect the Maritime Pollution Responsibility Zones (MPRZ) of the coastal state is addressed. This is achieved following a four-strand approach:
    • Strand 1: Consolidation and Co-operation: an examination of how enhanced co-operation amongst Maritime Administrations and other key stakeholders can deal with common issues that have a direct bearing on VTMIS;
    • Strand 2: Technologies and Traffic Management Measures: a review of relevant technologies and traffic management measures and how they may be adapted and applied (individually and collectively) in VTMIS;
    • Strand 3: Potential Benefits/Applications: assessment of the benefits that may arise from the deployment of these technologies and traffic management measures in selected areas, how these benefits may be attained and the budget costs of their introduction.
    • Strand 4: The Future of VTMIS: possibilities of enlarging the scope of VTMIS to hitherto unused or underused applications.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy and Transport (DG TREN)
Type of funding
Public (EU)


Work Package 1: 'Commonalities' 

  • For each area, guidelines (Operational Procedures; Technologies; Education and Training; Organisational, Legal and Financial aspects; Formal Safety Assessment; and Human Factors) were written which would guide the Work Packages. The guidelines provided the State-of-the-Art with respect the work being conducted in EMBARC. The guidelines were reviewed at the end of the project and updated where relevant. Whilst the State-of-the-Art remained valid in general, conclusions and recommendations were provided where the State-of-the-Art would require change if the measures coming out of EMBARC were to be implemented.

Work Package 2: 'Vessel traffic, cargo and resource management'

  • A tool was developed to determine the relationship between services and stakeholders in a port and thereby indicate the nature of Vessel Traffic Management and Information Services (VTMIS) in a specific port.
  • Requirements for the use of AIS through replay and the use of these data for risk assessment were developed.
  • The integration of Cargo Community systems with VTMIS is not promising and this investigation has revealed that many ports are distinguishing between nautical and safety related aspect and commercial aspects.

Work Package 3: 'Tracking, tracing and monitoring'

  • The present use and provision of AIS data by ships is not very successful but the situation is improving. The key items for attention were identified. 
  • A new reporting scheme for vessels in Europe was devised. The master reports only once his intentions to the monitoring authorities along the vessel’s route automatically using AIS. Monitoring authorities send reports to SafeSeaNet.
  • European waters are proposed as one reporting area. The European waters consist of the Search and Rescue Regions of the Member States. 
  • SafeSeaNet's infrastructure may be used for Tracking and Tracing of Cargo.

Work Package 4: 'Integration of tools and techniques'

  • The integration of AIS and radar in a port environment is possible from an operational point of view, but Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) operators need to be re-educated in the use of the information of AIS in relation to the complete Traffic Image.
  • Calculations were provided for determining the capacity of AIS in ports, which demonstrated that the capacity is sufficient even in the largest of th

    Technical Implications

    EMBARC in coastal waters

    1. RTIS (Regional Traffic Information System), HRVs (High Risk Vessels) and the combination of SAR (Search and Rescue) and VTM (Vessel Traffic Management) centres

    The concept of VTM centres is important: it combines a number of functions such as SAR and VTM in a way that:

    • Fully exploits the potential of AIS (Automatic Identification System) in SAR and VTM; responses to calls of distress may be faster when the SAR coordinator possesses a traffic image of the vessels which are in the vicinity of the vessel in distress;
    • Comprises remedial functions such as calamity abatement resources including Maritime Assistance Services for guiding the vessels to a Place of Refuge;
    • Sends a message to the Index Server of Safe Sea Net when the vessel enters and departs from the area of responsibility;
    • May be able to take pro-active traffic measures in relation to High Risk Vessels.

    EMBARC in ports

    2. AIS (Automatic Identification System) networks and capacities

    • In ship-to-ship operation the capacity of AIS is flexible by dynamic cell size. Re-use of time slots can happen if many ships are on receiving range of the mobile station which practically results in a smaller cell. Normally, the capacity in the ship-to-ship mode is unlimited;
    • In a Base station situation, where all messages need to be received in the area of interest, capacity can be enlarged by reduction of the receiving range and the installation of additional Base stations;
    • Special measures are available for a large concentration of Class B stations in a relative small area to avoid limited throughput of Class A stations;
    • The AIS capacity in the port environment is sufficient and slot re-use will seldom appear.

    3. Validation of VTMIS (Vessel Traffic Management and Information Services)

    • Whilst ports, and thereby Traffic and Transport Management, may be subject to differing regimes and may require individual solutions in order to optimise the level of co-operation between the two sectors, it could be seen that there was sufficient coherence between the two sectors.
    • Where elements of VTMIS have been implemented it was reported that improvements in the availability, quality and access to information had assisted in the overall effectiveness of the services provided within the port environment.
    • Further, operational Procedures, in resp

      Policy implications

      EMBARC in coastal waters

      1. Legal instruments for proactive monitoring of HRV

      The research is important with respect to the interpretation of the Intervention Convention.

      UNCLOS (United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea) may be interpreted in a way that it may enable the competent authorities of the Member States in such a way to implement measures that are in the interests of the coastal state by minimising the potential environmental impacts when the vessel is outside the territorial Seas.

      2. Electronic reporting and Automatic Identification System (AIS)

      The political implications of this reporting procedure are, among others as follows:

      • The master of the vessel only reports once;
      • The SAR authorities know what vessels to expect and they know the position of these vessels once they have reached the own area of responsibility;
      • The same is valid for the monitoring authorities that also act as authorities for VTM at sea to implement possible measures according to the intervention convention;
      • SSN (SafeSeaNet) knows when vessel change of SAR area since reports are gong to SSN;
      • SSN is not heavily burdened since they globally know where vessels are and the national authorities know precisely where vessels are using their coastal network;
      • The burden of the many reporting schemes can be removed since the European area is one reporting area.

      3. High Risk Vessels

      The important issue here is that it can be shown that about 70% of the risk in monetary terms is caused by 20% of the vessels. It is not surprising that many oil tankers and vessels that transport passengers are part of this group. A smaller proportion of the risky vessels is formed by the so-called “rust buckets” of Port State Control (PSC).

      It is not difficult to understand the differences. PSC is inspecting and detaining vessels using a different scheme than according to the definition of risk as used in EMBARC.

      Consequences of accidents are not taken into account in PSC considerations. It seems that PSC is inspecting vessels in order to reduce the accident proneness.

      Vessels that are not very accident prone but may have large societal consequences such as loss of life and pollution might become risky. Only vessels that are very accident prone despite the smaller consequences appear on the list of HRVs.

      The definition of risk that is taken in EMBARC is


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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