The improvement of safety and efficiency of vessel traffic in coastal waters and fairways by means of shore-based guidance has been realised by most European maritime countries through Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) systems. Those systems have different operational objectives according to the different geographical areas which they serve and the prevailing physical, meteorological and traffic conditions. Their operational procedures differ also depending on the hard- and software applications and the philosophy of responsible parties in respect of the level of traffic management needed (information, advice, instruction). <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = 'urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office' />
Existing VTS systems are almost in all cases stand alone installations with no permanent link to other systems. The main purpose of the VTMIS-NET project is to establish an information exchange network of existing VTS in Europe which also provides links with other maritime information sources, such as hydrographic and meteorological services. The challenge will be to inter-link existing facilities with a wide variety of hard- and software without requiring large parts of the modules in use to be replaced.
VTMIS-NET aims at realising added values by interlinking individual Vessel Traffic Management and Information Services (VTMIS) in order to establish local, regional and European VTMIS networks. Expected added values are:
- improved dissemination of vessel traffic information
- access to ship specific data
- access to cargo data when required for safety reasons
- dissemination of marine pollution information
The objectives of VTMIS-NET, therefore, are:
- the establishment of a methodology,
- guidelines and examples for the development of a VTMIS network
- the specification of an appropriate architectural network
- the development of tools for enhanced network operations
The research tasks are divided into several work packages with different aims, such as:
- specification of network architecture and network tools for implementation in a new VTMIS-NET
- development and application of validation criteria to ensure that specified objectives of the VTMIS network have been met and that consistent and reliable network operation is possible
- implementation requirements, dissemination and exploitation of the project results, and quality assurance.
A Task Force has been established to specify VTMIS-NET demonstration conditions, requirements and objectives, and to investigate local requirements and the potential of the demonstration sites.
Successful value added services were demonstrated based on interconnection of different existing traffic and transport management information systems in a number of test sites.
In the Baltic Sea area, demonstrators of automatic identification systems (AIS) and GIS electronic chart and display information services (ECDIS) technologies were able to achieve improved traffic planning and accident prevention. This was realised through more reliable and accurate data exchange and extended area coverage, and improved efficiency of port and vessel operations through reduced workload of ship-shore personnel.
In the North Sea area, a CORBA architecture and an improved data dictionary based on the MOVIT communication standard were used to achieve improved exchange of estimated time of arrival (ETA) and hazardous material (HAZMAT) information among several remote sites. Other demonstrators were able to achieve improved access to a Port Community System, more efficient port-vessel communication through broadcast transponder technology, and increased traffic management efficiency through Internet distribution of ECDIS traffic image.
In the Mediterranean area, demonstrators of regional networks supporting traffic data exchange were able to improve route planning, port resource planning and search and rescue (SAR) activities through more accurate target positioning, ship tracking, and an on-line help desk.
VTMIS-NET has provided new approaches in the area of pan-European information exchange. The demonstrators have shown that the range of users who can access the services is extensive and that the requirements of the port management authorities have been met. Benefits have been achieved in terms of more efficient and reliable VTS/VTMIS and reduction in the workload of VTS operators and ship-shore personnel.
Experience from the project showed that there is a need to encourage users to participate in an information exchange network. In addition, there is limited understanding of the systems within the waterborne transport community. Users need to familiarise more with advanced information technologies and information exchange concepts. In addition, problems arising from different languages still need to be overcome and proper training of the personnel involved is needed.
The VTMIS-NET demonstrators are important because they provide evidence of the benefits that the network can offer to the users. Also, they should help in changing the widespread opinion of VTMIS as 'VTS de luxe' into a more abstract concept, i.e. a network of systems, services and databases where existing systems are not changed but improved and expanded without causing additional burden to the users.