Vessels of 24 metres in length overall or more are obliged to participate in the vessel traffic services.
When navigating in the VTS area, vessels are required to maintain a continuous listening watch on the working channel used in the area. Furthermore, vessels are obliged to obey the rules relevant to the traffic in the VTS area. More detailed instructions about the required reports and working channels can be found in the regional VTS guide.
Vessels navigating in the VTS area, which are not obliged to participate in the vessel traffic services, are recommended to maintain a listening watch on the working channel in the VTS area or sector in question.
In Finland the vessel traffic services (VTS services) are operated by Fintraffic Vessel Traffic Services Ltd (Fintraffic VTS). VTS centres are located in Turku and Helsinki.
The sea areas at the Finnish coast are divided into six VTS areas. These are Bothnia VTS, West Coast VTS, Archipelago VTS, Hanko VTS, Helsinki VTS and Kotka VTS. In addition, Saimaa VTS operates in the Saimaa deep water fairway.
Along the coast VTS services are provided 24 h/day throughout the year. There may be operational interruptions due to technical problems or an unexpected shortage of personnel. Information about the interruptions is given as navigational or local warnings. Saimaa VTS only provides services during its period of operations. The period of operations is largely equivalent to the opening hours of the Saimaa Canal, but Fintraffic VTS will provide information about when the operational period begins and ends.
Vessel traffic services include information, navigational assistance and traffic organization.
VTS Areas along the coast provide all three service levels as described below. Saimaa VTS provides the service Information.
To improve safety and to create a consistent maritime situational awareness, English is used as the primary communication language in the VTS areas along the Finnish coast. As required, vessel traffic services are provided also in Finnish, Swedish and English.
Information is given to all vessels whenever necessary, at set intervals, when they report or when a vessel so requests. The information to vessels comprises matters which affect the vessels’ safe and smooth navigation. Examples of such information are other vessels in the VTS area, circumstances as well as the condition of the aids to navigation and fairways. The VTS monitors the vessel movements and when necessary informs vessels about any dangers threatening them. The service Information is provided in all fairway sections in VTS Areas.
Navigational assistance can be given to identified vessels on request or when deemed necessary by the VTS. Navigational assistance is only advisory and normative; the master of the vessel is still responsible for the manoeuvring of the vessel. Navigational assistance may include information about the vessel’s position and bearings/courses over ground to for example the fairway centre line or the pilot boarding place. Bearings or COG’s can also be given so that vessels can pass navigational hazards, for example shoals, at a safe distance. The information provided is based on the data received from the radar or the AIS system used in the VTS centre. Navigational assistance is provided in the VTS areas along the coast at open sea, from the open sea to the vicinity of pilot boarding places and outer anchorages.
Vessel traffic is organized in order to improve traffic flow and safety. To organize traffic, there are areas within the VTS areas with permanent meeting and overtaking prohibition. In addition, traffic can be separated in the permanent overtaking and meeting prohibition areas as well as near the pilot boarding places, considering the traffic situation and weather conditions. The aim is to prevent dangerous meeting and overtaking situations and congestion.