What is VMS?
The Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), is a form of satellite tracking using transmitters onboard fishing vessels. The system is a legal requirement under EC Regulation 2244/2003 and Scottish SI 392/2004.
How does it work?
A basic VMS unit consists of a GPS receiver which plots the position of the vessel (much like in-car SatNav or a handheld GPS unit) coupled with a communications device which reports the position at a minimum of every two hours.
To gain a position fix, a GPS receiver must have 4 GPS satellites within line-of-sight. GPS satellites are Low Earth Orbiting satellites arranged in constellation with the orbits scheduled so that at least 6 satellites are within line-of-sight from almost anywhere on the Earth's surface.
What information is sent by a VMS unit?
The unit automatically sends the following data on a predetermined timescale:
- the vessel identification
- geographical position
- date/time(UTC) of fixing of position
- course and speed
How often is VMS information sent?
Information must be transmitted once every 2 hours. There are reciprocal agreements with non-EU countries, such as Norway and Faroes as well as Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) such as NEAFC, where the requirement to position report is once every hour. The satellite tracking device installed on UK vessels is configured to automatically change the reporting frequency when a vessel enters and exits these areas.
Which vessels require to be fitted with VMS unit?
All EU, Faroese and Norwegian vessels which exceed 15m overall length must be fitted with VMS units. From 2012, this will change to an overall length of 12m for EU vessels.
Are any vessels exempt?
Vessels used exclusively for the exploitation of aquaculture and operating exclusively inside the baselines of Member States are exempt from satellite tracking.
What VMS units are approved for use by Scottish vessels?
In the UK, the only approved VMS unit is the Thrane & Thrane 3026M unit (Mini-C) supplied by Applied Satellite Technology (AST). These units comprise of two parts, the transceiver and the battery box. The battery box has a green light to indicate whether the box is receiving mains power, and an 'In Port' button which can be used to power down the unit. The units are fitted with tamper alarm switches which send alerts if opened.
Where can I purchase a VMS unit? Who units the VMS unit once purchased?
The only UK supplier for the approved VMS unit is Applied Satellite Technology (AST). They can be contacted on +44(0)1493 416566. VMS units are the property of the vessel owner. If a vessel is being sold outwith the UK, a vessel owner can retain the VMS unit for fitting to a replacement vessel.
Who should I contact about VMS invoices?
You should contact Applied Satellite Technology (AST) on +44(0)1493 416566. If the invoice is not from AST, then it is possible your vessel is still reporting using an older non-approved VMS unit and you can contact Marine Scotland's Marine Monitoring Centre on +44(0)131 244 4654 to confirm.
Who monitors VMS data?
Each EU member state has established 'Fisheries Monitoring Centres' (FMCs) to monitor the activities of their flag fishing vessels wherever they may be and fishing vessels within their waters.
What vessels are Marine Scotland responsible for?
In the UK, FMC responsibilities are discharged collectively by Marine Scotland, Marine Management Organisation (MMO - England) and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD - Northern Ireland). Marine Scotland is responsible for all Scottish based vessels anywhere in the world and for non-UK vessels operating in waters within Scottish jurisdiction. Marine Scotland's Marine Monitoring Centre acts as FMC for Scotland.
Who is responsible for ensuring the VMS unit is operational?
It is the responsibility of the master to ensure that the satellite tracking device is fully operational at all times. The Marine Monitoring Centre monitor VMS reports received and inform vessels / representatives / owners of any technical failures or non-functioning of the unit.
What should I do if I am notified that the VMS unit is not operational?
The notification will explain what actions are required. The main points are:
- If at the vessel is at sea, you should send manual positions every 4 hours to the UK Fisheries Call Centre either by telephone +44(0131 271 9700, fax +44(0)131 244 6471 or email email@example.com with the vessel name, PLN & callsign, the date/time (in UTC) of the position fix and the current position of the vessel.
- Once if port (or if already in port), you should engage an engineer by calling Applied Satellite Technology (AST) on +44(0)1493 416566 before your next departure.
- Once notified, you must not leave port without contacting the Marine Monitoring Centre on +44(0)131 244 4654 to confirm the unit is working again or to seek temporary authority to sail. Failure to do so may result in enforcement action against your vessel.
Can I switch off my VMS unit?
UK vessels are allowed to power down the unit while in port only, although the Norwegian authorities have requested that vessels do not power down while in a Norwegian port. To correctly power down, the 'In Port' button should be held down for 5 seconds, wait 5 minutes then power down the VMS unit (which should be on a separate circuit-breaker).
Failure to power down the unit correctly will cause the unit to enter 'sleep mode' and continue to report on battery power. The unit will detect any significant movement and re-commence reporting regardless of whether mains power is connected (therefore you should remember you switch on the power supply before sailing). For this reason, vessels should not use the In Port button while at anchor.
Vessel on guardship or non-fishing duties must continue to report as normal. However, we will consider requests to disconnect VMS units if a vessels will be out of action long term.
How do I get access to VMS data?
VMS data is considered personal data so access is strictly controlled. However, under the Data Protection Act , vessel owners can request access to their VMS data in writing (letter, fax or email). Vessel masters can also request VMS data for any period in which they can prove they were master of the vessel.
Requests should be sent to:
Marine Monitoring Centre
Mailpoint 5, Area 1A (North)
Tel: +44(0)131 244 4654
Fax: +44(0)131 244 6471