From 1st July 2019, mariners will notice changes in radio procedures, and the way traffic is managed within Guernsey's Harbours and their approaches. A Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) is being introduced, designed to improve safety of navigation and the efficiency of vessel movements. In simple terms, a marine VTS may be said to have similar characteristics to air traffic control services for airports and airspace.
The first, and most obvious change will be the introduction of the callsign 'Guernsey VTS', which will replace 'Guernsey Port Control', and will be used by the VTS officers who govern and monitor vessel movements around Guernsey's eastern seaboard. The VTS officers will also use standard Marine Communication Phrases, set out by the United Nation's International Maritime Organisation (IMO), and are designed to avoid any ambiguity or misunderstanding between VTS officers and vessel crew. This is particularly important where English is not the first language on the bridge of visiting vessels.
Participation will be compulsory for all vessels of 20 metres or more in length, and all vessels regardless of size engaged in towing within the Guernsey VTS area have to participate in the service. All masters of vessels under 20 metres in length are strongly encouraged to monitor VHF Channel 12 when entering the VTS area.
The Guernsey VTS area is enclosed by a line joining St Martin's Point, the Lower Heads Buoy, Le Plat Houmet, Tautenay, the Platte Fougere Lighthouse and Fort Doyle. Full details can be found in the booklet below.
The area will be monitored using Radar, Automatic Identification System (AIS), VHF Radio, and CCTV coverage. A new radar has been placed on the White Rock Breakwater and another radar tower will be sited at Longue Hougue.
As part of this system, the light signals on White Rock Breakwater will be changed to internationally recognised (IALA) traffic lights for vessel movements. These lights are configured to an international maritime standard and will be used to control vessels entering and leaving St Peter Port Harbour.
Guernsey's Harbourmaster Captain David Barker said:
"I see this introduction of VTS as a really positive step in our efforts to keep our waters as safe as possible for all who use them. Besides enabling better management of larger vessels in our waters, Guernsey VTS has the added benefit of being able to assist Guernsey Coastguard in Search and Rescue operations in the Little Russel, especially at night, during adverse weather or in poor visibility. This project has been several years in the planning, and I thank my team at Guernsey Harbours for their hard work in making it possible. I would ask all mariners to look at the information on our website, pick up one of the VTS leaflets from the Harbour Office or the Marine Services Centre at the Albert Pier, and to get to know the changes which this will bring."
The full Local Notices to Mariners for Guernsey VTS can be viewed here.