ASEAN VTS Operators for Safer and More Secure Seas

1 April 2018

By JAIF Management Team

Imagine traffic occurring at sea. It does happen, but good news is that a traffic monitoring system is available to help address such concern. It’s called Vessel Traffic Service (VTS). Crucial, however, is ensuring that personnel operating the VTS are capable and equipped with the proper knowledge and skills. Safeguarding seas and waterways involves not only protecting the vessel, but more importantly human lives and the environment. Indeed, it is no easy task resting on VTS operators’ shoulders as they report to work every day. This is all the more felt among maritime economies such as the ASEAN region where shipping has been central in linking Southeast Asia with the rest of the world.

Inside the lecture room of the ASEAN Regional Training Center for VTS (ARTV) in MATRAIN, Port Klang, Malaysia

© JAIF Management Team

“Shipping is growing and the people who man the shipping industry should be able to grow with it, too,” Director Nordin Bin Mohamadin of the Maritime Transport Training Institute (MATRAIN), reflects on the rationale for the establishment of the ASEAN Regional Training Center for VTS (ARTV) in 2017. The Director added that “capacity building cannot be done in the form of touch and go.” It has to be continuously carried out to keep up with the times and technology advancement.

ARTV offered its first training from 24 July to 20 October 2017 to 18 officers from the nine ASEAN Member States. The 90-day training consisted of eight modules following the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) Recommendation V-103 on Standard of Training and Certification of VTS Personnel and Utilizing Model Course V-103/1.

Comprehensive, structured, and standardized—these were how three officers from Indonesia and Malaysia described the training they received from the ARTV. Let’s hear their stories.

Caroline Veronica, Maritime Telecommunication Officer, Directorate of Navigation, Indonesia

In the eight years that Caroline has been with the Sub-Directorate Maritime Telecommunication of the Directorate of Navigation of Indonesia, it was her first time to go outside of the country for an intensive training. “It was like going back to school,” the officer said. “I have been participating in a number of VTS-related trainings before, but the one I attended in ARTV gave a full set of training and thus, I can say it’s the most comprehensive one.

While there are local trainings for VTS operators in ASEAN countries, the ones provided are not internationally recognized based on IALA standards. “Having internationally recognized certification gives me added-value, especially to my career development as a civil servant. It also allows me to participate in international committee meetings,” Caroline enthusiastically shared.

After successfully completing the training and obtaining her internationally recognized certification from IALA, Caroline is confident that she can support her sub-directorate more effectively. “I am now focusing on the development of VTS simulator in Batam and once it is completed, I can share the knowledge acquired from the training to VTS operators in Indonesia.”

Out of 18 representatives from ASEAN, Caroline was one of two females who attended the VTS operator’s training in ARTV.

© Japan Aids to Navigation Association (JANA)

Mohd Hafidz Bin Abdul Latif and Nasrol Azrin Bin Jaafar, Assistant Marine Officers, Marine Department, Malaysia

Looking back at the 90-day training they attended, Hafidz expressed how he enjoyed both the theoretical and practical aspects of the training. “We learned about our job and also the vessel—the condition of the ships,” he said. The officer added that returning to work after the training, they feel more confident when communicating with the ship as they know the standard marine language. For Nasrol, aside from the technical skills they gained, equally important was the network they formed along with the rest of the ASEAN participants to the training. As participants were required to stay in the facility throughout the entire course work, the social aspects of the training—meeting and learning from other VTS operators in the region—proved to enrich more the experiences they had.

“To finish the schedule, follow, and pass everything can sometimes be stressful,” said Nasrol. But the officer concluded that it was all worth it. Looking forward and having understood how VTS courses are structured into five levels based on IALA standards, Hafidz is keen to learn more than the operator’s level. “We do hope that we will go until the manager level,” he shared.

Now Hafidz and Nasrol are IALA-certified VTS operators. And this, they emphasized was what set this training apart from all others they received.

Mr. Hafidz (2nd row, first officer from the right) and Mr. Nasrol (1st row, fourth officer from the left) posed for a class picture with their instructor from Japan, Mr. Osamu Kaneko

© Caroline Veronica

With its establishment, ARTV positions itself as an important platform in the region to help harness individual’s capacities on maritime safety and security, which in turn can help develop into national and regional strengths.

The project “Development of VTS Operator’s Capacity” was supported by the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF). It is succeeded by the project “Advanced Personnel Training Program for Vessel Traffic Service,” which has started in March 2018.