Focus on VTS in South Africa

With seven, soon to be eight busy national ports, South Africa is a major hub for shipping from all over the world. This creates a strong requirement for as controlled an environment as possible, and VTS is the tool used to ensure safety, efficiency and the smooth running of the country’s busy ports.

Using its offices in Cape Town and Durban as a base, and collaborating with development teams in Norway and India, Kongsberg Norcontrol IT is meeting the demand for continuous improvements coming from South Africa’s ports, and has over the past few years installed VTMIS 5060 at six of the countries national ports.

South Africa ’s ports are run by the state-owned Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), whom, in 2003 signed an extensive maintenance agreement with Marine Data Solutions, based in Cape Town. A core part of the agreement was that Marine Data Solutions would be responsible for the VTS upgrade path at all of South Africa’s national ports. This started with the Cape Town VTS in 2005.

Cape Town was the proving ground for our VTMIS 5060 technology in South Africa,” explains Steve Nell, Managing Director of Marine Data Solutions. “At the time it wasn’t confirmed that Transnet’s other ports would use VTMIS 5060 but following the commissioning of the system in 2006, the improvements in system availability and the efficiency the port gained from having a much more detailed picture of its domain persuaded Transnet that the solution was right for all of its ports.”

With the upgrade project confirmed, Kongsberg Norcontrol IT’s next installation would be Saldanha. It was here that the company’s engineers highlighted the need for improvements in vessel tracking at South Africa’s ports.

“The anchorage area in Saldanha Port was not covered by the existing VTS at all so ensuring that the anchorage was presented on the VTS was one of the main goals of the upgrade installation that we started in 2006. We achieved this by installing the VTMIS 5060 integrated into AIS, which made an immediate impact on the marine operations in the port.” said Nell.

The last few years have been a busy time for Transnet’s VTS management and Marine Data Solutions. After Saldanha, the installation team installed VTMIS 5060 in quick succession at Port Elizabeth, East London (in progress), Durban and Richards Bay (in progress), meaning that the majority of South Africa’s major ports are now using the same VTS technology.

“The fact that so many of Transnet’s ports are now running the same system brings with it a number of advantages,” comments Nell. “They are all using the same VTS operator interface, which from the staffing angle is very beneficial. Staff and managers may move between ports and be instantly familiar with the systems in place there whilst at the same time Transnet can streamline its VTS operator training.”

One of the most important aspects for any organisation using the same VTS solution across several ports is that of information exchange. With Transnet’s ports all running the same system, they can easily pass data between each other. Knowing when, for instance, one vessel has passed Richards Bay can help VTS operators to schedule anchorage in Cape Town even before said vessel appears in the receiving port’s VTS area. With advance knowledge of a vessel’s movements, efficiency between ports can and has been greatly improved in South Africa.

The most recent development is the installation of VTMIS 5060 at South Africa’s newest national port, Ngqura, which is currently under construction. The installation started in December and is due for completion in February 2009. Once complete, Ngqura will be integrated into the South African VTS network making for a total of seven busy ports all running the same VTS solution.