Training and certification of VTS personnel



Sergey Rostopshin, head of VTS center, Port of Saint-Petersburg, Saint-Petersburg, Russia and Dmitry Rostopshin, senior project manager, development department, Transas Marine International, Askim, Sweden


The intensity and responsibility of the job of VTS operator in large seaports could be easily compared with a job of air traffic controller. VTS operators perform their duties 24 hours a day, controlling traffic in the port or on approach, preventing dangerous situations, collisions, grounding of vessels and oil spill accidents. Decisions are made within a short period of time and require full information.

Despite of the importance of VTS operators’ work, if we surveyed the general public, asking: “Do you know this profession?” – thousands of people would answer yes for air traffic controllers and only few people will know who VTS operators are. There was not that much attention paid by maritime government organizations to this occupation. Fortunately, in recent years the situation has changed, with the support coming from international organizations.

VTS at the Port of Saint-Petersburg has a long history of VTS operations. At the moment, the VTMIS of the Port of Saint-Petersburg consists of a coastal VTS center, two port VTS centers and a VTS center in the new passenger port. There are 60 VTS operators working in the port, providing services like information, traffic management and navigational assistant services, according to IALA classifications.

VTS efficiency

In mid 1990s, statistics of VTS usage in world’s largest seaports showed that despite significant expenses for the establishment and running of VTS, costs were far outweighed by VTS’s contribution to the safety of navigation and environmental protection. VTS efficiency can be estimated through a comprehensive approach, which stipulates not only a comparison of VTS operation expenses, with profit from navigational charges and taxes, but also takes into account the potential loss, which may occur in the case of an absence of VTS in the port. In practice, VTS is considered to be profitable if it decreases the number of accidents in the VTS responsibility area by 50 percent. In fact, VTS operated by professional and properly educated staff could provide much more advantages.

VTS training regulations

The VTS institution itself is quite young. This explains the fact that training of VTS personnel for a long time hasn’t been subject to any international standard. Some competent authorities have defined some local standards, according to their national regulations. However, this practice has raised inconsistencies in determining when VTS operators are considered competent enough for unassisted duties.

Taking this into account, in 1997 IMO issued resolution A.857(20) containing general principles of the recruitment, training and qualification of VTS operators. At the same time, standards for training and certification were developed by IALA, according to decision taken at the 8th International VTS symposium (Rotterdam, 1996). These standards were issued in 1998 and approved by IALA council as IALA Recommendation V-103. The main principal declared by the Recommendation V-103 is a necessity for VTS staff to get necessary qualifications, proved by certificate, before they can be appointed as VTS operator or VTS supervisor.

VTS training

The recruitment process should include tests, medical inspections and should demand professional qualifications from applicants. According to resolution A.857(20), candidates are not required to have nautical education. In this case it is recommended to provide additional lectures to let trainees acquire minimal nautical knowledge (such as navigation, vessel construction and control and port operations). Together with professional knowledge, it is very important to take into account personal skills and the psychological portrait of the person.


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