Vessel Traffic Services

The provisions on vessel traffic services are laid down in the Vessel Traffic Service Act 623/2005 and in the Government Decree on Vessel Traffic Service 763/2005.

Participation in Vessel Traffic Services
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. More detailed instructions about the required reports and working channels can be found in the regional VTS guides.
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.

Operational hours and location of VTS Centres
In Finland the vessel traffic services (VTS services) are operated by the Finnish Transport Agency.
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 Lake Saimaa region.
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 does not operate off season in the Saimaa Canal. Information about the start and end of the traffic season is given separately.
The traffic image of the VTS area and the related VHF radio communication is saved in the VTS centres. The records are stored for at least 30 days.

SERVICES PROVIDED BY THE VTS CENTRES
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.
Vessel traffic services are provided as required in Finnish, Swedish and English.
During the trial period, 1.10.2015 – 30.9.2017, contact will be taken primarily in English. Participation in the trial of using English as the primary language in the VTS areas along the Finnish coast is voluntary.

Information is given to all vessels whenever necessary, 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 and the condition of the aids to navigation and channels. The VTS monitors the vessel movements and when necessary informs vessels about any dangers threatening them.
The service Information is provided in all channel sections in VTS Areas.

Navigational assistance can be given to identified vessels on request or when deemed necessary by the VTS centre. 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. 
Traffic organization is provided in the channels in terms of imposing meeting and overtaking prohibitions and if necessary by separating traffic in terms of time and distance. The aim is to prevent dangerous meeting and overtaking situations and congestion. 
VTS can separate the vessel traffic in terms of time or distance according to the situation and circumstances, so that vessels are able to meet in a safe area.
In addition there are areas within the VTS areas with permanent meeting and overtaking prohibition.
The services provided in the different VTS areas are described in the regional Master’s Guides.

INCIDENTS
In exceptional situations, such as extraordinary weather conditions, search and rescue situations or any other incidents in which vessel traffic is restricted or put at risk, the VTS centre can temporarily close a channel or fairway section. In exceptional situations the VTS can also issue speed limits or instruct vessels to anchor.
Vessels must immediately report all incidents relating to maritime safety to the VTS centre. In case of accidents or risks of accidents, vessels should first contact the MRCC.  

THE MASTER OF THE VESSEL – RESPONSIBILITY AND OBLIGATION TO REPORT
The vessel’s participation in the vessel traffic services does not affect the master’s responsibility for manoeuvring the vessel. If the master of the vessel, for a valid reason relating to the vessel’s safety, is unable to participate in the vessel traffic services, or to follow the instructions given by the VTS in exceptional situations, he must immediately inform the VTS centre about this.
The master must notify the VTS authority of the following events taking place in the VTS area or its vicinity:

  • any incidents or accidents affecting the vessel’s safety
  • any incidents or accidents endangering the safety of navigation
  • any circumstances that may cause pollution of waters or the coast
  • any pollutant spills and containers or packages drifting in the sea

Request for access to VTS records

Access to records is priced on commercial grounds as laid down in the Decree of the Ministry of Transport and Communications on chargeable performances at the Finnish Transport Agency (1203/2016).  Access to records for use by authorities is free of charge. The conditions for access are laid down in the Act on the Openness of Government Activities (621/1999)
Form for requesting access to records

Pilotage
For enforcement referred to in the Pilotage Act, the VTS can enquire about the name of the master or the number of the Pilot Exemption Certificate/exemption. The vessel should be prepared to provide this information on request.

Compulsory pilotage
Vessels must use a pilot on public fairways which are located in Finnish waters and the part of the Saimaa Canal leased by Finland and which have been defined as fairways requiring pilotage, if pilotage is required by the hazardous or harmful nature of the cargo or the size of the vessel.
The Government Decree on Pilotage gives further provisions regarding the vessels for which pilotage is compulsory.

Pilotage order
Pilot orders are placed at Finnpilot’s Pilot Order Centre.
Pilotage order form: www.pilotorder.fi.

Inspecta Sertifiointi Oy granted the Finnish Transport Agency's Vessel Traffic Services ISO 9001 Quality Management System certification on 10 February 2016.

The purpose of the Vessel Traffic Services’ quality management system is that the Vessel Traffic Services, distress and safety radio communications, qualifications of operational staff and other operations defined in the quality management system provided to vessels meet the national and international requirements and take into consideration other international codes, recommendations and guidelines.

Through these requirements, Vessel Traffic Services strives to improve the safety and efficiency of vessel traffic in Finnish and international waters under Vessel Traffic Services’ control, and to prevent accidents and environmental damage.

The management of the Vessel Traffic Services is committed to developing the activities and regularly evaluating the impact of the quality management system. The Finnish Transport Agency offers its personnel a pleasant and safe working environment.