Safety within the Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) Domain. Understanding the role of the VTS for safety within maritime traffic management
Abstract: Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) is a shore-sided service implemented to promote the safety of navigation, safety of life at sea, and the protection of the marine environment. Its purpose is to work for safe and fluent traffic movements within a determined area, a VTS area. VTS is provided by VTS operators, skilled experts that provide vessels with information and advice, and work for the overall traffic organisation. Although VTS is regulated on an international level there are differences in how the service is provided in between countries, and even VTS centres. This licentiate thesis focuses on understanding the role of the VTS for safety within maritime traffic management. Concepts derived from three bodies of research: High Reliability Organisation (HRO) theory, Naturalistic Decision Making (NDM), and Cognitive Systems Engineering (CSE), have been applied to analyse and discuss how safety is constructed, promoted, and can possibly be improved in the light of future demands within the maritime domain. The results show that maritime safety is experienced as a context-dependent condition in which the single operator has a direct impact on the outcome. Maritime safety therefore identified as being actively constructed through the actions of a control system, the Joint Cognitive System of the VTS operator and the decision support system at hand. This system, as it is today, is an unbalanced system in which actions need to be determined based on the “situation-as-it-was”, due to delays in information presentation in the decision support at hand, in contrast to the information on the vessel’s side that represents the “situation-as-it-is”. Although there has been a heavy focus on technical developments within the VTS domain, there is a lack of results when it comes to how or if these tools were implemented and used by the actual VTS operators. Further, the scope of participation within the VTS should be re-evaluated. The international and national authorities need to decide whether VTS is meant to be an effective service regulating the safe and fluent flow of traffic within an area or an information service. More attention needs also to be paid to both the ship-side and the shore-side of the VTS domain. They each reflect one perspective on maritime safety and the function of the VTS. Therefore, they are to be seen as equally important whenever means and measures with the aim to improve maritime safety are introduced within the VTS domain. Finally, more knowledge on what a VTS is and what purpose it serves needs to be fostered in the maritime domain. It is otherwise hard to take advice and trust instructions when there is a wide range of differences in how a services is provided under the same label world-wide.
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