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VTS in focus in new STM simulations

VTS in focus in new STM simulations

Published: September 20, 2021

In the STM BALT SAFE project, it is the first time we get to see a full-scale route exchange ship-VTS. Mikko Klang from Fintraffic sees the opportunities route exchange brings to the VTS: “We are about to make a cultural change!” After three days of simulations all participants were inspired by the possibilities route exchange bring. The VTS operators in the simulations agree with the safety aspect that the project is aiming for. It seems similar to AIS, which was created for safety but became so much more. It is not until you work with the tool you discover all the possibilities.

Mikko Klang, FinTraffic, is responsible for the project work on Vessel Traffic Services, VTS, solutions.

Mikko Klang

“Route exchange is a huge advantage and a first step into the future VTS management. We now have the functionality operational in several VTSes that hopefully brings about a request for more VTSes. If a ship sails in Norwegian, Finnish and Russian waters and see what difference it makes, then they will spread the word and other shipping companies will demand the route sharing possibilities and we are rolling! ”

STM BALT SAFE has been in contact with shipping companies and they and their ships are ready to share routes, that wasn´t the case some five years ago. It used to be seen as a business advantage to keep the voyage plan to yourself but companies now sees an advantage to share and that is a great difference in culture.

How other VTS centres can move forward

Mikko Klang explains his view “It would be great if we had a network for exchanging thoughts and creative ideas between the existing VTSes that also could work as a knowledge bank for new VTSes joining. It would also serve as a platform for new business opportunities. One example would be easy connections in the mobile phone for the end users in port. The non-profit consortium behind the information sharing ecosystem, Navelink, and many of the manufacturers are generous with their knowledge thus the step to being connected is not that big. ”

The simulations

Julia Burgén & Staffan Bram

Staffan Bram and Julia Burgén at Research Institutes of Sweden, RISE, prepared the simulation scenarios together with Anders Johannesson at Swedish Maritime Administration. They explain the reasons behind and the benefits of the simulations.

How can we use simulations to get data?

“Our task within the project is to evaluate human factors in connection to the new STM services. This means trying to understand whether the services might introduce any hazards, for example by affecting current work practices or interactions within the sea traffic system. There were a few different reasons to use simulations for this evaluation. At this point, few centres have any real experience of working with STM, and the chances of collecting quantitative data on VTS safety performance are small. Instead, we chose to take a qualitative approach, identifying possible hazards through interviews and workshops. The simulations go a bit further and give us a better chance to observe how some of the services lend themselves to normal VTS practice.”

What data do you expect?

“The simulator study is also qualitative, but we have been able to collect concrete examples of STM use that makes it easier to engage in discussions around possible hazards with the operators.”

What results can you get from such data?

“We based the simulation setup on potential hazards identified in previous data collection, and now that we can compare those observations to simulation data, we can talk with more certainty around the effects of STM. It should be said though that simulations always differ from actual work practice in several ways, and that the VTS centres may have very different working circumstances. For that reason, it will be important to continue to evaluate human factors-related hazards as STM continues to be implemented. We feel quite certain that when different centres implement the services, some potential hazards will prove to be irrelevant while new ones will appear.”

Was there anything unexpected in the simulation runs?

“Perhaps that there is such a variety in how the services may be used by the individual VTS operator, both depending on personal preferences and on other things, such as the current traffic situation or the nature of the controlled area. We should be aware that one size does not necessarily fit all. Our impression is that the safety contribution of the VTS depends heavily on operator skills and experiences, and that should be acknowledged when changes are made in the VTS centre environment.”


Mikko Klang finishes “All the pieces on-board and on shore exist, we just need to get in the habit of using them! Then there is no stopping us!”


Text & photo: Cajsa Jersler Fransson

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