In 1979 by formal agreement, the Canadian and the United States Coast Guards established the Co-operative Vessel Traffic System (CVTS) for the Strait of Juan de Fuca region. The purpose of the CVTS is to provide for the safe and efficient movement of vessel traffic while minimizing the risk of pollution by preventing collisions and groundings and the environmental damage that would follow. As part of the Agreement, Tofino Traffic provides VTS for the offshore approaches to the Juan de Fuca Strait and along the Washington State coastline from 48 degrees north. Seattle Traffic provides VTS for both the Canadian and US waters of Juan de Fuca Strait and Victoria Traffic provides VTS for both Canadian and US waters of Haro Strait, Boundary Passage, and the lower Georgia Straits.
The primary function of VTS Puget Sound (VSTPS) is to facilitate good order and predictability on the Salish Sea waterways by coordinating vessel movements through the collection, verification, organization, and dissemination of information.
VTSPS is comprised of three major components:
- a Vessel Movement Reporting System (VMRS);
- a Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS); and
- a Surveillance system including radar, Automatic Identification System (AIS), and closed circuit television (CCTV).
VMRS: The VMRS is based upon a VHF-FM communications network maintained continuously by the Vessel Traffic Center (VTC) in Seattle. This network consists of 15 variable power sites. The location of these communication sites throughout the VTSPS Area allows mariners to contact the VTC while normally only using low power on their radio.
TSS: The Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) in the VTSPS Area has been adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Therefore, the TSS is subject to the COLREGS and all vessels are expected to comply with the provisions of Rule 10 when operating in or near the TSS. The traffic lanes, separation zone, and TSS buoys that comprise the TSS are depicted on nautical charts, and International COLREGS apply everywhere in the VTSPS Area, including Lake Washington.
Surveillance: The VTC receives radar signals from 12 strategically located radar sites throughout the VTSPS area. Radar provides approximately 2,900 square miles of coverage including all waters where the TSS exists. This includes the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Rosario Strait, Admiralty Inlet, and Puget Sound south to Commencement Bay. The VTS also receives and displays Class A AIS information from 13 AIS base stations, and has a total of 14 CCTV cameras located throughout the VTSPS Area to observe critical waterways, port areas and major anchorages. Canadian Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) partners provide radar and AIS surveillance of the offshore approaches to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Haro Strait, Boundary Pass, and Strait of Georgia.