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In the summer of 1946, the British Admiralty, in conjunction with the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, carried out experiments with naval radar equipment set up ashore at Liverpool. The demonstration confirmed the potential usefulness of shore-based radar. Similar experiments were carried out at Southampton UK), Halifax (Nova Scotia), Le Havre (France) and Long Beach (USA).

It is little known that the world's first harbour control radar was actually installed at the end of Victoria Pier, Douglas, Isle of Man and inaugurated on 27 February 1948. Five months later, a more sophisticated port radar system was installed at the Port of Liverpool.

In 1951, Long Beach in California established a radar and vhf to facilitate port operations. Le Havre also established a system and so gradually, other ports followed. At this time commercial radar, which made it possible under almost all weather conditions to observe vessel traffic from the shore, was comparatively new. In combination with VHF radio, a traffic surveillance system was achieved and real time information exchange between the shore and ships became possible.

It was not until 1968, however, that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted Resolution, A.158(ES.IV), Recommendation On Port Advisory Services, subsequently followed by Resolution A.587(14) in 1985, Guidelines for Vessel Traffic Services.

On 27 November 1997, IMO adopted Resolution A.857 (20), "GUIDELINES FOR VESSEL TRAFFIC SERVICES" and its associated Annexes 1 and 2, "Guidelines and Criteria for VTS" and "Guidelines on Recruitment, Qualifications and Training of VTS Operators".

These Guidelines now set out the objectives of a VTS, outline the responsibilities and liability of the Governments involved and give guidance for planning and implementing a VTS as well as recruiting and training of VTS Operators.

In December 1998, the IALA Council adopted Recommendation (V-103) on "STANDARDS FOR TRAINING AND CERTIFICATION OF VTS PERSONNEL". It recommends that, "National Members and other appropriate Authorities providing, or intending to provide, Vessel Traffic Services, to use the standards given in the Annex and their related model courses as the basis for the training and certification of VTS personnel".

The year 2002, saw the amendments for SOLAS Chapter V come into force, of which Regulation 12 relates directly to Vessel Traffic Services.

Recommendation V-103 was submitted to IMO and in May 2000 the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) issued Circular 952, in which they have "invited Member Governments to bring the IALA Recommendation and model courses to the attention of their VTS authorities when considering training and certification of VTS personnel".

Recommendation V-103, together with its associated Model Courses, lays the foundation for training and qualification standards for the VTS personnel. Having such standards should ensure an efficient career structure and enhance the quality and determination of the VTS personnel concerned. By ensuring their VTS personnel are well qualified, the various VTS Authorities would likewise enhance the quality and professionalism of the Port itself. Such qualifications mean that a common performance standard can be achieved nationally and internationally.

On 13 December 2002 the MSC issued Circular 1065 - "IALA STANDARDS FOR TRAINING AND CERTIFICATION OF VESSEL TRAFFIC SERVICE (VTS) PERSONNEL" - in which Member Governments were invited to bring the IALA model courses to the attention of their VTS authorities, training institutes responsible for the training of VTS personnel and any other parties concerned.

VTS has now come of age and all new and existing VTS operational personnel can now be trained at an accredited VTS training establishment in order to achieve an internationally accepted qualification bringing the profession in line with their seagoing colleagues including maritime Pilots.