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12/12/2019 10:46 AM

VTS: air traffic control of the sea

Every airport needs its air traffic control but what about the ships in our seaports? Here’s how Port Authority’s VTS teams keep watch 24/7 to keep shipping safe in NSW.

Over 6,000 of the biggest ships in our seas navigate through the busiest ports in New South Wales every year.

But these ships and their valuable cargo must travel through unpredictable waters, face wild weather and share shipping channels with hundreds of recreational vessels to get safely into port.

Keeping watch over this blue highway are the Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) teams of Port Authority of New South Wales.

Like air traffic control for the ocean, VTS teams are established in seaports worldwide to manage the flow of marine traffic. In NSW, Port Authority’s VTS teams work 24/7 to keep track of vessel movements and provide navigational safety advice to ships.

From their control centres in Sydney, Newcastle and Port Kembla, the VTS operators communicate with ships’ captains, coordinate operations with marine pilots; advise ships of dangers, local weather and sea conditions; and give ships instructions to safely enter and exit port.

Image: Monitoring a ship leaving port from their control tower in Port Kembla

Connected to a network of radars, CCTV, navigation aids and ship-tracking technology, the VTS operators act as the eyes and ears of the ports. They provide ships with critical information to assist the bridge team in their decision-making ability and to help them avoid potential hazards.

And when a maritime incident does occur, it’s the VTS team who coordinate the emergency response. From high seas to stricken vessels, medical emergencies to marine pollution, the VTS team is the central point of call for ships and emergency authorities needing assistance.  

Day and night, 365, Port Authority’s VTS operators are there to keep the blue highway running.

People of ports: meet the Vessel Traffic Services operators

“You've got to be on your toes, anything can happen.” Meet two of Port Authority’s VTS team and find out how they keep watch over the ports of NSW.
Read more



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