In the last century, the rapid development of maritime trade has stimulated an increase in the quantity, as well as the dimensions, of ships using the ocean routes. The intensification of maritime traffic has imposed on coastal authorities the need to adopt measures to organize and control it, especially in access to ports. In this context, the first systems for monitoring vessel traffic appeared in the United Kingdom in 1948, which are known worldwide by the acronym VTS (Vessel Traffic Service). These systems combined the ability to detect and monitor the vessels, provided by radars, with the possibility of transmitting messages via radio to them.

Studies conducted at the time concluded that the new system, although rudimentary, had provided a better use of the capacity of the ports, in addition to having reduced the risk of accidents. Since then, VTS has expanded throughout Europe, the United States and Asia, being recognized by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as a valuable tool to increase the safety of navigation, especially in ports with high traffic density, dangerous cargo or potential for environmental damage. Currently, there are more than five hundred VTS services operating on all continents, a number that is increasing as the demand for efficiency and safety of port operations, as well as the protection of the marine environment, grows. Its main beneficiaries are the users, which are the ships, practice services, port administrations, shipowners, tugboats, in addition, of course, to the Brazilian Navy itself and agencies such as the Federal Police, the Federal Revenue Service and the National Health Surveillance Agency.

Over time, the incorporation of new technologies made the service more sophisticated, which began to require a worldwide effort to standardize procedures in the VTS. After all, it is essential that there is uniformity of technology and language in this type of service, so that there are no communication failures or loss of information. In this regard, in December 2021, the IMO Assembly adopted a new Resolution A.1158(32) Guidelines for Vessel Traffic Service (VTS), replacing the one that had been in force since 1997. The publication, which constitutes the basis for the international regulatory framework of the service, introduced significant changes in the VTS, especially in the aspects related to the provision of the service to users and the definition of responsibilities by Governments, VTS Providers and participating vessels.
Today, modern VTS services consist of equipment and sensors that, strategically positioned, collect and transmit the data for processing in the Control Center, where an operator has access to the traffic image and environmental information of interest to users, such as, for example, tidal data, wave height, wind intensity, visibility, temperature and marine currents.

Another advantage that the operation of the VTS provides is the visualization, during 24 hours, of the movements of entrances and exits of vessels, the realization of works that can restrict navigation and of places prohibited for transit and permanence of ships. In this way, the VTS operator can anticipate the development of potentially dangerous situations for navigation, since they have an accurate view, in real time, of their coverage area, with the ability to interact with the vessels whenever necessary.

In addition, the data collected by the sensors and the information produced in the VTS can be shared with other sectors of the ports involved, as well as external agencies, public and private, which contributes directly to increasing the efficiency of port services, as well as to the prevention of illicit activities. For example, in case of occurrences in the VTS coverage area, the local agent of the Maritime Authority may have access to a history of data, such as the communications made, the recording of the traffic situation of the vessels and also to the image of cameras, which will certainly be important for the investigation of the facts.

The operation of VTS in Brazil In Brazil

, there is no specific legislation on VTS and, because it is an aid to navigation, the Directorate of Hydrography and Navigation (DHN) is the Military Organization responsible for developing standards, authorizing the operation and supervising the VTS in the country, with the advice of the Almirante Moraes Rego Navigation Aid Center (CAMR).

In 2022, DHN, with the support of CAMR, updated and published NORMAM-26 (5th Revision), with the purpose of internalizing in Brazil the new IMO resolution and other resulting international standards, especially those produced by the International Association of Aids to Navigation (IALA), an organization recognized as the main source of guidance and knowledge on VTS in the world.

According to NORMAM-26, the process of implementing a VTS in Brazil basically develops in three phases, and begins with the approval, by DHN, of an initial project, containing basic information on how the service will be provided, its coverage area and possible users. The second phase consists of the preparation of the documents that will support the service, both internally, with the establishment of procedures for the operators, and externally, when the instructions that the navigators must comply with in the area of interest of the VTS will be approved. Finally, after the completion of the actions necessary for the implementation of the VTS (works, installation and testing of equipment, hiring and training of operators and administrative demands), your provider requests CAMR to conduct a Technical Visit (VISITEC) to the VTS Operations Center.

This is then the last step in the VTS operating license granting process. During VISITEC, practical exercises are carried out to monitor traffic and simulate various routine and emergency situations, in order to evaluate the operation of the equipment, integration of sensors and performance of operators in their workstations. In addition, it is also verified whether the documents that regulate the provision of the service serve the purpose of adequately guiding the actions of operators and users.

CAMR team during VISITEC to the VTS of the Port of Vitória (ES)

After the implementation of the VTS, it is essential to monitor the quality of service delivery to users and their contribution to the local maritime community. To this end, NORMAM-26 recommends that the CAMR perform annual VISITEC in the VTS in operation.

In 2022, due to the significant changes introduced in the VTS, it was necessary that the event be conducted, exceptionally, focusing on the adequacy of the services in operation in the country (Port of Açu, in São João da Barra (RJ), and Port of Vitória, in Espírito Santo) to the new rules established worldwide.

Evaluation of operators in the VTS at Porto do Açu (RJ)

In addition to the ports of Açu and Vitória, whose VTS went into operation in 2015 and 2017, respectively, eleven other ports (Rio Grande, Imbituba, Itajaí, São Francisco do Sul, Paranaguá/Antonina, Itaguaí, Santos, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador/Aratu, Fortaleza and Itaqui) have expressed their intention to implement VTS in the coming years.