Main duty of the VTS Service is the control and traffic flow management in the area of their activity and supervision of compliance by vessels with the traffic rules on designates routes. The control of the speed of vessels in the port entrance area belongs to the crucial tasks of the VTS Services. The devices operated by the VTS duty officers keeping up with the traffic flow enable to automatically detect and identify these vessels that exceed speed limits. Orders given by the VTS duty officer should be carried out by the vessel (the captain). Non-performance of such an order (given by the VTS Services) could be justified only if fulfilling it endangered the vessel or persons aboard. The use of diminutives and abbreviations and acceptance of radio communications (similar to the one quoted above in the footnote on p. 25) is an affront to the dignity of the VTS Service and provokes to disregarding behaviour of the traffic flow participants in the supervised area. The State Commission on Marine Accidents Investigation has recommended the following:
1. The VTS duty officers should maintain radio communication with the vessels according to the requirements of the radio communication regulations for communication in a very high frequency band for sea services and according to procedures included in IALA Vessel Traffic Service Manual based on IMO Standard Marine Communication Phrases (SMCP), as well as according to the knowledge acquired in the course of training for persons applying for a general certificate of the GMDSS operator.
2. The VTS duty officers should observe the traffic management procedures ensuring safety of navigation in the area under their supervision and enforce in a determined way orders issued to traffic participants.
The knowledge and abilities of a pilot grow with the number of ships they have serviced in and out of the port. In the majority of cases, the experience of the pilot in handling is much greater than that of a captain. Model courses by IMO for captains include only a theory of manoeuvring. Only some shipowners send their captains to additional practical trainings conducted by centres that offer training in ship handling. Therefore, an appropriate risk assessment related to bringing a vessel in the port mostly belongs to the pilot, who apart from a long-term practice in ship handling, knows local conditions.
In the opinion of the Commission, the fact that the pilot ceased to advise the captain how to safely handle the vessel in a narrow and winding fairway is against the principles of seamanship (no analysis of risk resulting from excess speed of the vessel), is a serious mistake which contributed to the accident.
In the course of analysing the cause of the accident as far as the human factor was concerned, the Commission paid attention to routine, in the negative sense of this word, with which the pilot performed his duties. Routine is an inherent component of professional practice gained over the years in the performance of the same, repeated activities. Yet, at the same time, each entry in the port is a unique experience. Schematic repetition of activities or their negligence hoping that nothing wrong would happen, may lead to the accident and loss.
The State Commission on Marine Accidents Investigation has recommended the following:
1. Pilots should maintain radio communication with the VTS duty officers according to the requirements of radio communication regulations for communication in a very high frequency band for sea services and according to procedures included in IALA Vessel Traffic Service Manual based on IMO Standard Marine Communication Phrases (SMCP), as well as according to the knowledge acquired in the course of training for persons applying for a certificate of the VHF radio operator.
2. Every year there should be organized a meeting for all pilots to discuss and analyze marine accidents and incidents that took place during previous year in the area covered by the station. During such meetings, pilots should have the opportunity to exchange information and experience gained in the pilotage, which lead or could lead to difficult situations.
3. At least once a year with the consent of the Main VTS Operator in Świnoujście, all pilots acting as observers should take on a duty at the station together with the VTS duty officers.
The SOLAS convention in the Rule V/12, which came into effect in 2002, imposed on the IMO members states the obligation to appoint VTS in the areas, where traffic intensity or the degree of risk would justify such services. Poland complied both to requirements of the international as well as the EU law , implementing the traffic control on its territorial waters. Three VTS systems were established. The directors of maritime offices were responsible for their organization. It results from the material gathered in the course of investigation that each director organized it in a different way. Also, the directors interpreted and carried out in a different way, the delegation contained in the regulation of the Minister of Transport, Construction and Maritime Economy of 14 December 2012 on the National System of Traffic Flow Control and Transfer of Information to secure the functioning of the VTS Service and to establish regulations and detailed operating procedures of these services.
Under the Art. 39 sec. 5 of the Marine Territories of the Republic of Poland and Maritime Administration Act of 21 March 1991 (Journal of Laws of 2013 item 934 and 1014), a maritime office – which helps local body of the maritime administration (director of the maritime office) to accomplish their tasks – should be composed of four independent units, i.e. maritime inspection, the VTS Service, harbour master’s, and dock master’s offices, and the shipping defence office. In the course of investigation, the Commission had difficulties in locating the VTS Service in the structure of the Maritime Office in Szczecin. These services were included in the composition of the harbour master’s office, merged with his duty services, and subordinated to the harbour master. From the description of tasks imposed on the VTS Service within the Organizational Regulations of the office it results that they go beyond the objectives ordinarily assigned to that kind of services. The VTS Service should cooperate with a competent harbour master’s office but they cannot perform its tasks. They should report to the director of the maritime office and not to the harbour master. Under Polish law, the VTS Service form a part of a maritime office and not a harbour master’s office. They are equally important as the harbour master’s office. The Act distinctly separates the competence of the maritime office director. With the help of the VTS Service, the director performs their tasks with regard to traffic monitoring and transmission of information, whereas with the help of harbour and dock master’s offices the director exercises their competence in ports and harbours. Therefore, according to the Commission, it is improper to merge the VTS Service and duty services of the harbour master’s office in the context of tasks for which the VTS Service were appointed.
In view of the above, the State Commission on Marine Accidents Investigation has recommended the following:
The Commission has recommended to develop and announce the VTS Service regulations according to the delegation contained in §6 p. 3 of the Regulation of the Minister of Transport, Construction and Maritime Economy on the National System of Traffic Flow Control and Transfer of Information. The regulations should define among others, the organizational structure of the VTS Service, subordination in service of operators (on duty), duty system (including rotations and replacements), the period of rest of operators, and procedures of the VTS operators (external and internal operating procedures). The external procedures should include among others, the mode of maintaining correspondence with ships, radio communication bands, emergency procedures for collision, sinking, grounding, falling overboard, environmental pollution, or fire on a vessel in the controlled area, and principles of cooperation with pilots and the pilot station. The internal procedures should include such ones, as e.g. changing of the watch (duty) procedure, as well as internal emergency procedures in the case of e.g. power failure of devices operated by the VTS operator or sudden loss of contact with a vessel led by the operator.
When creating the regulations, one should consider IALA recommendations resulting from IALA VTS Manual 2012, IALA Recommendation V-127 on Operational Procedures for Vessel Traffic Services, 2nd ed. 2011, as well as resulting guidelines of appendix 1 to the IMO resolution A. 857 (20) Guidelines for Vessel Traffic Services, and the fact that the VTS operators should not be burdened with additional tasks, such as making inspections of vessels and port areas in the scope of port order or cooperating with the City Technical Duty Officer, Voluntary Sea Rescue or the Governor’s Operating Office.
The Commission has recommended revising the organizational structure of the Maritime Office in Szczecin with regard to complying with the requirements of Art. 39 sec. 5 of the Marine Territories of the Republic of Poland and Maritime Administration Act. Correct position of the VTS Service in the structure of the office shall restore appropriate status to these services.
The Commission has recommended to oblige the directors of remaining maritime offices to develop and announce the VTS Services regulations according to the delegation contained in the Regulation of the Minister of Transport, Construction and Maritime Economy on the National System of Traffic Flow Control and Transfer of Information. In the majority of documents related to the functioning of the VTS Services, which were analyzed by the Commission in the course of conducted examination, the directors define only the principles of functioning of the Services. Documents lack information on explicit organization of the Services and procedures of operation of the VTS operators.
Moreover, in relation to discovered irregularities in the manner of communication of the pilot bringing Godafoss into the port of Świnoujście with the VTS Service, the State Commission on Maritime Accident Investigation has recommended to consider the legitimacy of introducing into the training programmes for sea pilots, periodic trainings (best of all at the time of renewing the diploma) in acquaintance with the regulations concerning radio telecommunication contact in the same scope as is required from persons applying for a certificate of a limited GMDSS operator.