The new Sydney Vessel Traffic Service system: a tailored solution



Captain Philip Holliday,Executive General Manager Marine Services & Harbor Master, Sydney Ports Corporation, Sydney, Australia



In 2007 Sydney Ports Corporation undertook a formal marine risk assessment of their Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) requirements, following which they made the decision to replace the existing system with the most up to date technology available from Signalis. This formal approach ensured all aspects of Sydney Ports port area and environment were detailed and assessed. Sydney Ports area of responsibility comprises of two specific bays (Port Jackson to the North and Port Botany to the South), a complex shoreline and a high density of maritime traffic, in particular leisure vessels.

Based on the assessment, Sydney Ports produced a detailed specification which included an extensive three week realtime test phase to ensure the optimum sensors and system were selected for the VTS to ensure the protection of one of the most beautiful harbors. Sydney Ports new Vessel Traffic Management Information System (VTMIS) integrates radar, AIS, CCTV (including fixed and pan tilt and zoom cameras) and VHF sub systems on multiple sites using a loop microwave network.

Tailoring the system

Each sub-system had to be tailored to meet the demanding requirements of the VTS and complex environmental conditions. The radar sub-system comprises of five TERMA Scanter 2001i Radar sites covering the area, with two radar sites (South Head at the entrance of Port Jackson and La Pérouse at the entrance of Port Botany) covering the port approaches and two radar sites (Blues Point Tower for the inner part of Port Jackson and New Molineaux Point for the inner part of Port Botany) monitoring the area inside the bays. The final radar site is on top of AMP tower in Sydney CBD, providing area overlap.

In order to achieve the optimum tracking and coverage from each radar site, radars had to be tailored as follows:

  • Three radars (South Head, Port Jackson and La Pérouse) have dual frequency diversity
  • Two radars (Blues Point Tower and New Molineaux Point) have dual redundant single frequency radars
  • Two radars (Blues Point Tower and New Molineaux Point) have 4 kilowatt transceivers in order to monitor large ships sailing very close to the radars, all the three other radars have the standard 25 kilowatt transceivers
  • Two radars (Blues Point Tower and AMP tower) have inverse square cosecant antennas to provide short range coverage, which would not have been possible with standard antennas because of the installation height (installed on top of tall buildings)

It is of note that, of the five radars in the system, only two radar sites (South Head and La Pérouse) have the same specification. The complex shoreline with numerous coves and high density leisure traffic presented the problem of ensuring that the VTS operators were capable of continuous monitoring and observation of the vessel traffic at any point along the shoreline.

To resolve this, a specific CCTV solution was designed using Electron Magnified CCD cameras (EMCCD), which offer day and night vision capability, together with a mix of fixed cameras to monitor large angle zones and automatic directional pan tilt and zoom cameras either directed automatically by the system or manually by the operators to cover specific targets or areas of interest. Observation of the area was further enhanced by the use of programmed surveillance patterns for the pan tilt and zoom cameras when specifically tasked.


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