Vessel Traffic Services

A Close Eye on Gibraltar's Waters

Gibraltar´s Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) has enabled the Gibraltar Port Authority to strengthen its ability to co-ordinate vessel movements in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW), thereby improving navigational safety standards whilst at the same time maintaining efficiency of the Port.

The system, manned by the Gibraltar Port Authority´s team of VTS staff, has been operational since 2011 and allows for constant monitoring of all vessel movements both within and outside BGTW. The VTS operates as an Information Service (INS), Traffic Organisation Service (TOS), and when required a Navigational Assistance Service (NAS), co-ordinating all ships in Gibraltar waters from the operations room in the Port building. The VTS staff have at their disposal a range of sensors to assist them in their work, including Radar and Automatic Identification System (AIS) with coverage stretching many miles out to sea enabling them to check vessel movements well before their arrival. The VTS operators can also use CCTV cameras with night-time thermal imaging capability and a radio direction finding facility which accurately pinpoints the source of VHF transmissions.

Whilst the system´s primary focus is on navigational safety, allowing VTS operators to de-conflict movements in the busy BGTW, it also provides opportunities to maximise the use of the Port space for commercial benefit. In line with international requirements, vessels are required to provide pre-arrival notification giving VTS staff the ability to organise vessel movements in advance with local companies and thus ensure maximum efficiency and minimum waiting times, with real-time movement information on vessel activity in and around the Port being readily available to shipping agents, pilots and other service providers.

Data relating to vessel traffic is administered electronically and used for both billing and information purposes for Port stakeholders. This information is also fed automatically and directly into the European SafeSeaNet database allowing EU Member States to monitor vessel operations around their European shores.

The VTS system also supports Gibraltar enforcement agencies to maintain the integrity of BGTW as well as providing an essential Search and Rescue (SAR) capability.

An IALA brochure providing guidance on what a shipmaster can expect from a VTS and what is expected from a shipmaster can be read in the PDF document below;