France Unveils New VTS and SAR Communications Facility

October 9, 2020 (Google Translation) – Thanks to the generalization of radio waves, then radars, defining your position at sea became easier and easier from the first half of the 20th century. But with the constant increase in the number of ships during the 1960s and 1970s, the management and securing of major international maritime routes reached unprecedented complexity. Faced with this unprecedented situation, France has set up a system that is unique in the world: the Crosses.

When, on August 3, 1898, before the astonished eyes of the Minister of the Navy, Lieutenant Camille Tissot succeeded in establishing the first operational French radio link at sea between the school ship Borda and the semaphore of the Parc aux Ducs in Brest, distant from 1,800 meters, few people still perceive the extent of the changes to come.

However, the world of the sea is preparing to experience a real revolution. ” The use of microwave radio as an aid to navigation is an invention comparable to the emergence of the printing press at the time of Gutenberg, ensures Vincent Guigueno, heritage curator and ‘ one of the greatest French specialists headlights.

In clear, as the headlights are now able to send and receive signals not visuals, ships can finally determine with more accuracy their own position in the sea. By relying on several radio sources and not more only on experience, the instruments, maps, light flashes of lights or sounds of beacons, marine have a particularly powerful tool.

It was not until 1911 to see the installation of the first four French automatic radio beacons on the Ile de Sein, in Ouessant and at the entrance to the port of Le Havre. But in from the years twenty, their number is constantly increasing and the second part of the XX th century ad the end of the age of gold of traditional lighthouses began in the nineteenth th century. ”


During the Second World War, the development of hyberbolic radionavigation systems using the waves of fixed terrestrial transmitters to establish a position will further improve maritime traffic conditions. This is particularly the case with the Loran, widely used by the US Navy during the Pacific War, and maintained today in the event of a GPS malfunction, or with the Decca System (discontinued in spring 2000) initially developed by the Allies to allow more precise landings. In France, in order to compensate for the lack of Decca coverage in the Bay of Biscay, other hyberbolic radio-navigation systems have also been developed, such as the Rana and the Toran. ” But everything changes once again with the generalization ofSystems of satellite navigation, tells Vincent Guigueno. The first operational satellite system is Transit. Then others quickly see the day, such as GPS (American), the Glonass (Russian), the Galileo (European) or even the Beidou (Chinese), always in the course of deployment.

If these appeared technological developments gradually have allowed a more high security of navigation, they have also created the conditions for a genuine globalization of risk at sea with the unprecedented intensification of maritime traffic in straits and in certain risk areas. Especially in the Channel and in the Pas-de-Calais, which will be set up rails and DST devices of separation of traffic. ”


To respond to the double problem posed by the coordination of rescue at sea and the surveillance of traffic from land, at the end of the sixties and the beginning of the seventies. France will rely on the regional operational surveillance and rescue centers (Cross). The sinking of the Amoco Cadiz in 1978 just confirmed this need. Very versatile, Crosses carry out a general mission of coordinating security activities and surveillance of maritime activities, pollution and fisheries, within the framework of State action at sea. They carry out their activity under the operational authority of the maritime prefects in metropolitan France and overseas, government delegates for State action at sea. Reporting to the Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition (MTES), they are headed by administrators of Maritime Affairs and are armed by personnel from the MTES and the French Navy. In mainland France, there are five main centers and one secondary center: Cross Gris-Nez (Eastern Channel – Pas-de-Calais) from the Franco-Belgian border to Cap d’Antifer. Cross Jobourg (central Channel) from Cap d’Antifer to Mont-Saint-Michel. Cross Corsen (Western Channel – Iroise Sea) from Mont-Saint-Michel to the tip of Penmarch. Cross Étel (Bay of Biscay) from the tip of Penmarch to the Franco-Spanish border. Cross La Garde (Northwestern Mediterranean) and the Corsica secondary center (Corsica only).

In the overseas departments and regions and overseas communities (DROM-COM), there are four centers (two Cross and two Maritime Rescue Coordination Centers (MRCC): Cross Antilles-Guyane (Tropical Atlantic), Cross Réunion (South Indian Ocean), MRCC Papeete in French Polynesia (Pacific Ocean) and MRCC Nouméa in New Caledonia (Pacific Ocean).

To carry out their missions, they can call on all the means of the State: patrol boats and stars of maritime affairs, boats, ships, helicopters and planes of the Navy, Customs, Gendarmerie and Civil Protection. They also call on the canoes and boats of the SNSM (National Society for Rescue at Sea) as well as any ship located near a distress zone, and handle on average more than 10,000 operations per year for the benefit of fishing, commercial, pleasure boats and water sports enthusiasts.

80% of their area of ​​intervention is concentrated in the maritime space between the shore and the limit of territorial waters. True sentinels of the seas, Crosses have thus become essential players in the safety of navigation.

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