Australian legislative framework for VTS

We are responsible for leading national policy on vessel traffic services (VTS).

VTS is an internationally recognised navigational safety measure through the International Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea 74/78 (SOLAS).

SOLAS (Chapter V, regulation 12) states:

  • VTS contribute to safety of life at sea, safety and efficiency of navigation and protection of the marine environment, adjacent shore areas, work sites and offshore installations from possible adverse effects of maritime traffic.
  • Governments may establish VTS when, in their opinion, the volume of traffic or the degree of risk justifies such services.

The IMO Assembly Resolution A.857(20): Guidelines for Vessel Traffic Services describes the principles and general provisions for operating a VTS and for participating vessels and the roles and responsibilities of contracting governments, competent authorities and VTS Authorities.

The Navigation Act 2012 establishes us as the competent authority for VTS in Australia.

Section 213 of the Act allows regulations to be made in relation to VTS.

Marine Order 64 (Vessel Traffic Services) sets out the arrangements for us to regulate VTS authorities, including:

  • authorising
  • certification
  • auditing

Marine Order 64 (Vessel Traffic Services) also provides for:

  • The recognition of training organisations we have accredited.
  • Requirements for masters of vessels to provide reports required by VTS authorities and to comply with their instructions.


The responsibilities of the contracting governments / competent authorities and VTS authorities in planning, establishing, and operating a VTS are described as:

  • Competent authority—the authority made responsible, in whole or in part, by the government for safety, including environmental safety, and efficiency of vessel traffic and the protection of the environment.
  • VTS authority—the authority with responsibility for the management, operation and co-ordination of the VTS, interaction with participating vessels and the safe and effective provision of the service.

In Australia, the relationship between the competent authority and the VTS authority is provided for under the Navigation Act 2012 and Marine Order 64 (Vessel Traffic Services).

Competent authority

As the competent authority for VTS, we are responsible for Australia’s obligations under SOLAS Regulation V/12 and IMO Resolution A.857(20), as amended.

Our key responsibilities include:

  • Leading on national policy for VTS in Australia.
  • Providing advice to government on legislation with respect to the establishment and operation of VTS in Australia.
  • Establishing and reviewing national standards for VTS.
  • Authorisation of VTS Authorities.
  • Auditing and reviewing the performance of a VTS in accordance with:
    • The objectives set for the VTS and conformance with IMO Resolution A.857(20).
    • Associated International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) Recommendations.
    • Guidelines and any standards established by the Competent Authority for VTS.
  • Establishing the need for a coastal VTS outside the areas of jurisdiction of State Authorities in a manner consistent with:
    • IMO Resolution A.857(20).
    • Associated IALA Recommendations and Guidelines.
    • Any standards established by the Competent Authority for VTS.
  • Establishing and reviewing training standards for all VTS personnel.
  • Providing accreditation of organisations involved in VTS training and conducting a regular review of training and training standards as defined in IALA Recommendation V-103 'Recommendation on Standards for Training and Certification of VTS Personnel'.
  • Publicising declared VTS’s and their characteristics.

VTS authority

The VTS authority is responsible for the operation of the service type(s) prescribed within the area defined for each individual VTS.

In particular, this includes:

  • In the context of establishing and operating a VTS, the VTS authority’s responsibilities include the requirement to:
    • Establish the need for a VTS in a manner consistent with IMO Resolution A.857(20), associated IALA Recommendations and Guidelines and any standards established by the competent authority for VTS.
    • Establish the service type/s to be delivered, based on the outcome in the previous point.
    • Ensure a legal basis for the operation of a VTS is provided for.
    • Apply to us for designation of its VTS and approval of its VTS area in accordance with current regulations.
  • Where authorised by the competent authority, operate the VTS within national and international guidelines and legislation. In particular, this includes:
    • Ensuring the objectives of the VTS are met.
    • Ensuring the VTS is operated in conformity with IMO Resolution A.857(20), associated IALA Recommendations and Guidelines and any standards established by the competent authority for VTS.
    • Maintaining appropriate standards of communications on channels assigned for VTS purposes.
    • Ensuring that sufficient staff, appropriately qualified and suitable trained, are available to provide the type of service declared.
    • Ensuring that equipment appropriate to the type of service declared is available.
    • Ensuring that VTS personnel are vested with the appropriate authority and / or delegations required to fulfil their duties.

Last updated: 

Wednesday 20 January 2021