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Closing Statement- Board Meeting: Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) Safety Study, Washington, DC
Christopher A. Hart
NTSB Conference Center, Washington, DC

​In closing, I would like to recognize the hard work of the NTSB staff in producing this safety study, and to thank my fellow Board Members for their very thoughtful participation in the process.

The Coast Guard’s VTS system has the authority, the infrastructure, and ultimately the obligation, to intervene whenever an unsafe traffic situation is detected. However, as you’ve heard this afternoon, there is more that can and should be done to improve the overall effectiveness of the system and the safety of our waterways.

Perhaps the greatest lesson that we draw from our work here today is that opportunities exist for the VTS system to further reduce the risk of accidents by taking a more proactive role in vessel traffic management. Yet this cannot be accomplished when VTS watchstanders do not speak up and warn mariners of danger or are reluctant to use their full authority to direct a vessel away from an unsafe situation.

Although each VTS center faces unique challenges, as we have heard today, more standardization is necessary. Improvements in the training and qualification of watchstanders will help address the widespread variation in how these tasks are accomplished within VTS centers and across the VTS system.

It is equally important, however, that pilots and other mariners participate in the system. These professionals must monitor and actively communicate with VTS centers.

Lastly, the Coast Guard has long recognized the importance of safety risk management, but it is not applying continuous risk assessment processes to its 12 VTS areas.

We hope that this study and the recommendations that we issued today will serve as a valuable guide to future improvements.  Such changes require a sustained commitment to safety. We know the Coast Guard and mariners share this commitment with the NTSB.

We stand adjourned.