Publication Title

Tulane Maritime Law Journal


U.S. Coast Guard, Vessel Traffic Service

Document Type



In the alermath of the 2007 COSCO BUSAN allision and oil spill, some asked whether United States Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) operators monitoring the developing incident should have intervened explicitly to wam the vessel or even order it to take avoiding action.

The controversy called to mind a speech by a former IMO secretary-general in which he suggested that those resisting greater shore-based control were "hiding behind tradition." In its investigation of the COSCO BUSAN incident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) urged the Coast Guard to better define its expectations regarding the exercise of VTS control authority and several federal legislators cosponsored a bill to "clarify" the VTS authority to direct a vessel to change its course or speed.

This Article examines existing international materials, federal legislation, regulations, and Coast Guard policies on VTS services and concludes that additional legislation is neither necessary nor wise. It also concludes, however that current VTS regulations and policies should be amended to better conform to international guidance documents and standardized terminology. Additionally, VTS operator and supervisor qualification and training programs should be expanded to ensure competency across the entire continuum of vessel traffic management activities.

Included in

Admiralty Commons



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