By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo November 30, 2016 The Chilean Navy developed its first Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) to improve maritime security and efficiency in the south of the country. The unit was designed and constructed in Valparaíso by the Navy’s Docks and Yards (ASMAR, per its Spanish acronym) at the request of the Chilean Navy’s General Directorate of Maritime Territory and Merchant Marine. It will begin operations the second week of December in Punta Yamana, Tierra del Fuego province. “The Chilean Navy made an initial investment of $800,000. The total investment during its 20-year projected lifetime will be approximately $3 million,” Captain Marcelo Albarrán Mora, chief of the Chilean Navy’s Marine Technologies Department, reported to Diálogo. The VTS system is part of the Chilean Navy’s Lantano Project, which will provide a suitable monitoring system for areas with access to the ocean between the western mouth of the Straits of Magellan and Bahía Nassau, a region surrounded by islands. Commercial maritime traffic will be administered by prefecture posts at sea using standardized detection and communication systems. Passage through Punta Yamana is mandatory for all vessels sailing through inland waters from northern Chile to Puerto Williams and Antarctica – from small-scale fishing boats to passenger cruise ships. Vessels that transit the area are tracked through information received from the ships themselves and/or VHF radio information about their positions received from other prefecture posts at sea. This information is sent every 12 hours and is complemented with visual detection by naval personnel. “With this basic form of detection, the results are limited by climatological considerations, darkness conditions, or the ability of the operator. They do not allow the Navy to properly exercise its role in the areas of security and maritime surveillance,” emphasized Capt. Albarrán. “These limitations are overcome by using current technological elements that allow for a much more effective result.” “This is a demonstration of Chile’s resolve to contribute to maritime security; it is a way of asserting sovereignty in inland waters,” Miguel Navarro, a professor at the Chilean National Academy of Political and Strategic Studies, told Diálogo. With its maritime traffic control system, the autonomous station will identify and monitor all ships transiting within an area of interest of approximately 10 nautical miles. It also will be able to transmit security information to vessels such as how to lower the risk of accidents at sea and how to protect marine resources. In addition, it will provide ships with real-time information on meteorological and sea conditions, and it will lower the current operational costs and safeguard the sovereignty of Chilean territorial waters. “This first automatic station means a smaller investment and a lower cost of operation in places where meteorological conditions make it very difficult to have a human presence to ensure maritime security in the area,” said Navarro. VTS characteristics The VTS has a fiberglass structure of various thicknesses and types of insulation. It is 8 meters in diameter and 5.24 meters high. It can function automatically for six months, and does not require the presence of naval personnel to work. At the end of the six-month period, it will receive maintenance to ensure its continuous operation. ASMAR stated in a press release that the station has a room for electronic equipment, a repair garage, space for storing fuel, a 6,500-watt wind turbine, 400-watt solar cells, and two 8,500-watt diesel generators to supply electricity to the automatic identification system. It also has a CCTV camera system for viewing ships, and satellite radio equipment. “In addition to powering the current maritime traffic control capacities in the southern area, the station will allow us to improve in other areas like national security, as it will perhaps detect the illegal entry of ships into national waters, non-compliance with closures, or illegal fishing and unauthorized sailing,” said Capt. Albarrán. The system will be connected to the Central Maritime Traffic Control System. The information provided by these sensors will be jointly integrated and deployed on digital maps to provide the maritime authorities with a panorama of the surface in real time. “Nevertheless, we will keep (naval) personnel residing on site during 2017 to supervise the functioning of the system and provide a quick solution to problems that could perhaps present themselves,” Capt. Albarrán stated. The installation of two other such systems is being considered for the future. One of them will be implemented in the Beagle Channel, in the area of Paso Brecknock, and a second one in the area of False Cape Horn, an access to the south of the Beagle Channel through the Murray Channel. Twenty-one maritime traffic control stations have been installed, and there are 10 others pending installation. The Chilean Navy is analyzing the possibility of automating other systems that use local operators. “Incorporating this type of maritime surveillance technology makes ASMAR a regional leader in the development of this naval capacity,” said Navarro, “Once again, the Chilean Navy is demonstrating its high commitment to security.” ASMAR’s capacities include the construction of a new Antarctic icebreaker for the Chilean Navy. The vessel will perform missions dealing with logistical support, scientific research, search-and-rescue, and the resupplying of bases in Chilean Antarctic territory. The vessel will be approximately 125 meters long and is expected to be completed in 2021.