THE Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS) of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has improved considerably the safe and orderly passage of some 80,000 ships through the Mactan Channel every year.
There’s no question that passenger as well as cargo vessels are now moving in and out of the Port of Cebu in a safer way owing to the PCG’s VTMS.
Built with the official development assistance of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the VTMS electronically tracks the movement of all ships navigating through the congested Mactan Channel.
The VTMS is basically an electronic traffic monitoring system for the safe course plotting of ships, similar to the air traffic control system for planes.
The VTMS has reduced in a big way the risk of ship collision disasters.
The system has also helped to provide information on the exact location of distressed ships within the coverage area, thus enabling the PCG to respond faster to emergencies.”
Prior to the installation of the VTMS, the Mactan Channel was accident-prone.
On Feb. 18, 2017, at least 49 passengers were injured when SuperCat Fast Ferry Corp.’s mv St. Braquiel collided with San Miguel Corp.’s Barge No. 8 along the Mactan Channel.
On Aug. 12, 2013, at least 116 people were killed and 21 others went missing when the passenger ferry mv St. Thomas Aquinas collided with the cargo ship mv Sulpicio Express Siete at the south entrance of the Mactan Channel, some 1.9 kilometers off the coast of Talisay City.
The accident also spilled 160,000 liters of bunker fuel, diesel oil and lubricants that caused a massive environmental disaster.
Cebu’s two-year-old VTMS has a control center supported by three radar stations around the Mactan Channel, including one in Talisay.
The system also involves the use of microwave data links, automatic identification system (AIS) base stations and VHF radios and direction finders.
Each vessel approaching or navigating out of the Mactan Channel is being tracked by radar and AIS sensors – the two leading methods of ship collision avoidance.
Under international maritime laws, all ships with gross tonnage of 300 or more, and all passenger vessels regardless of tonnage, are required to have AIS transceivers on board to supplement radar.
The AIS base stations electronically communicate with the AIS transceivers on every ship, relaying each vessel’s unique signature, position, course and speed.
Meanwhile, radar senses the presence, direction, height and distance of ships using reflected electromagnetic energy.