Global maritime surveillance and oceanic vessel traffic services: towards the e-navigation


Vessel traffic services (VTS) operators can control the movements of ships in local coastal areas, and also have the technological ability to track vessels internationally, since all merchant vessels are currently equipped with global tracking systems. Digital information processing and satellite communications are powerful tools that the maritime sector is eager to take advantage of in relation to safety, environmental protection and efficiency. This paper reviews current regulations and infrastructures within the VTS and the main European Union (EU) projects that have utilized the potential of the digital era and satellite technology. Through assessment of future trends, it also proposes, for the first time, that there will be the need for a new approach to global maritime traffic services, in view of anticipated issues in future developments within this sector. This approach will consider the creation of an oceanic vessel traffic services, where all personnel would exchange information, without state borders, between ships and onshore centres worldwide. This also raises the issues of how a new technological paradigm will fare against ancient barriers of legislative scope.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. 1.

    IMO (1997) - Resolution A.857(20).

  2. 2.

    As follows on SOLAS Chapter V: Safety of navigation, Regulation 19 Carriage requirements for shipborne navigational systems and equipment. 2.4 p. 370.

  3. 3.

    Previously known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), is the European Program for the establishment of a European capacity for Earth Observation and Monitoring.

  4. 4.

    This report provides a picture of the worlds merchant fleet derived from data contained in the Equasis database. Ship types are general cargo, specialized cargo, Ro-Ro, bulk carriers, oil and chemical tankers, gas and tankers, passenger ships, offshore vessels, service ships and tugs.

  5. 5.

    Described on the Navguide 2018 8th edition. IALA. Chapter 4. E-Navigation. Page 67.

  6. 6.

    Keynote address by Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of IMO at e-Navigation Underway conference on 2nd February 2016.

  7. 7.

    Although the Secretary General Kitack Lim, expressed his support: “STM goes hand in hand with IMO goals” and “I give my full personal support to STM” at the STM Validation Project Final Conference at the International Maritime Organization in London, 13–14 November 2018.

  8. 8.

    Korea was chosen to hold the 19th International Conference of the IALA in June 2018.

  9. 9.

    The Secretary-General Mr. Kitack Lim of the IMO and the Secretary-General M. Francis Zachariae of the IALA on the e-Navigation Underway International Conference under the title of “Paving the Way for a Digital Maritime World”, from 6 to 8 February 2019.

  10. 10.

    United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Part II. The Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone. Section 1. General Provisions. Section 2. Territorial Sea Limits. Article 3. Width of the territorial sea and Section 3. Innocent Passage Through the Territorial Sea. Article 21. Laws and regulations of the coastal State regarding innocent passage.

  11. 11.

    Navguide 2018. 8th Edition. Chapter 2 – Concepts and accuracy of navigation. 2.3 Phases of navigation. P.13.

  12. 12.

    MSC.1/Circ.1595. Figure 1. Overarching e-navigation architecture.


  1. Baldauf M, Benedict K, Fischer S, Gluch M, Kirchhoff M, Klaes S, Schröder-Hinrichs JU, Meißner D, Fielitz U, Wilske E (2011) e-Navigation and situation-dependent manoeuvring assistance to enhance maritime emergency response. WMU J Marit Aff 10(2):209–226.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Bootsma R, Polderman K (1987) ATS and VTS - some observations towards a synthesis. J Navig 40(1):42–51.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Chen Y (2014) Satellite-based AIS and its comparison with LRIT. TransNav, the International Journal on Marine Navigation and Safety of Sea Transportation, 8(2), pp 183–187.

  4. Corbet AG (1992) Towards global marine traffic control— the need, the technical feasibility and the social and political impediments. J Navig 45(3):425–439.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. EC (2002) Directive 2002/59/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a Community vessel traffic monitoring information system. Official Journal of the European Communities, pp 10–27

  6. EMSA (2007) LRIT: International Requirements. Available at: (Accessed: 6 May 2018)

  7. EMSA (2018) ‘Electronic Quality Shipping Information System’, p. 103. Available at:

  8. EMSA (2019) ‘Copernicus Maritime Surveillance. Product Catalogue’, p. 76. Available at:

  9. FNB-UPC (2017) La gestión del tráfico marítimo y su impacto en la industria del transporte internacional. In: STM Day - Barcelona Conference. 11 December 2017, p 5

  10. García Fernández J.M., Salinas C.F, Pérez J.D (2004) Servicios de tráfico marítimo. 1a. Edited by C. Iglesias. A Coruña: Netbiblo, S.L.

  11. Graff J (2009) e-Maritime: a framework for knowledge exchange and development of innovative marine information services. WMU J Marit Aff 8(2):173–201.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Hughes T (1998) Vessel traffic services (VTS) : are we ready for the new millenium? J Navig. Bethel University 51(3):404–420

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. IALA (2013) Anticipated user e-Navigation requirements from berth to berth, for. AtoN Authorities 1096(May):1–10

    Google Scholar 

  14. IALA (2017) e-Navigation underway. Available at: (Accessed: 26 March 2018)

  15. IALA (2018) Navguide 2018 Marine Aids to Navigation Manual. 8th edn. Saint Germain en Laye

  16. IALA-EFFICIENSEA (2017) Workshop Report How to Run the MCP (Maritime Connectivity Platform), Deliverable D1.28 Workshop Report (attended)

  17. IMO (1972) COLREGs - International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, pp 1–74

  18. IMO (1997) Resolution A.857(20) Guidelines for Vessel Traffic Services, (December), p 22

  19. IMO (2004) International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. Colophon a, SOLAS. Colophon a. London: IMO PUBLICATION Sales number: D903E

  20. IMO (2018) MSC.1/Circ.1595 E-Navigation strategy implementation plan - Update 1. London, p 65

  21. IMO (2019) 9th Edition of the e-Navigation Underway International Conference - “ Paving the Way for a Digital Maritime World ” Copenhagen, Denmark., Speech. Available at:

  22. Lim K (2016) e-Navigation Underway 2016, Keynote address by Kitack Lim Secretary-General, Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization. Available at: (Accessed: 17 February 2018)

  23. Lind M, Bergmann M, Haraldson S, Watson RT, Jin P, Gimenez J, Andersen T (2018) STM. Creating a mature data sharing regime - thriving in the connected ecosystem. STM, (March), p 7

  24. Plant G (1990) International legal aspects of vessel traffic services. Mar Policy 14(1):71–81.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Proctor JD (1973) Marine and Air Traffic Control. J Navig 26(2):247–249.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. STM (2018) STM Validation Project Final Conference at the International Maritime Organization. Press Release. In: STM breakthrough week Press. London: Conference 13 and 14 November 2018 at the IMO Headquarters, p. 3

  27. STM Midterm (2017) Analysis and evalutaion testbeds data from Act2. In Work Camp act 2 MASTER final. Valencia, p 77

  28. UNCTAD (2017) UNCTAD Review of maritime transport

  29. Ustaoglu BS, Furusho M (2002) The importance and contributions of the VTS towards the establishment of the global safety management system for the safety of the maritime transportation., International Association of Maritime Universities (IAMU). Available at: (Accessed: 31 January 2019)

  30. Velasquez Correa S, Martínez de Osés X, Ulf S (2018) Sea Traffic Management and the smart maritime community. ResearchGate, (October), pp 398–406

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to F. Xavier Martínez de Osés.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Martínez de Osés, F.X., Uyà Juncadella, À. Global maritime surveillance and oceanic vessel traffic services: towards the e-navigation. WMU J Marit Affairs (2021).

Download citation


  • E-Navigation
  • Vessel traffic services
  • AIS
  • Satellite