VTS Regulations

What the National VTS Regulations Require of VTS Users and VMRS Users. 

33 CFR 161 defines two categories of vessels - VTS Users and Vessel Movement Reporting System (VMRS) Users, each with specific requirements. The following information describes each category and the requirements for each.

VTS Users

  • Subject to the Vessel Bridge-to-Bridge Radiotelephone Act
    • (1) Every power-driven vessel of 20 meters or over in length while navigating;
    • (2) Every vessel of 100 gross tons and upward carrying one or more passengers for hire while navigating;
    • (3) Every towing vessel of 26 feet or over in length while navigating; and
    • (4) Every dredge and floating plant engaged in or near a channel or fairway in operations likely to restrict or affect navigation of other vessels except for an unmanned or intermittently manned floating plant under the control of a dredge.
  • Required to participate in a VMRS; or
  • Equipped with a required Coast Guard type-approved Automatic Identification System (AIS).


  1. Carry on board and maintain for ready reference a copy of these rules (33 CFR 161); NOTE - a copy of the rules are included in the VTS User Guide locate on the DOWNLOADS page of this site.
  2. Subject to the exigencies of safe navigation, comply with all measures established or directions issued by a VTS.
  3. If, in a specific circumstance, a VTS User is unable to safely comply with a measure or direction issued by the VTS, the VTS User may deviate only to the extent necessary to avoid endangering persons, property or the environment. The deviation shall be reported to the VTS as soon as is practicable.
  4. When not exchanging voice communications, a VTS User must maintain a listening watch on the VTS designated frequency (see 33 CFR 26.04(e)). In addition, the VTS User must respond promptly when hailed and communicate in the English language.
  5. As soon as is practicable, a VTS User shall notify the VTS of any of the following:
  • A marine casualty as defined in 46 CFR 4.05-1;
  • Involvement in the ramming of a fixed or floating object;
  • A pollution incident as defined in 33 CFR 151.15;
  • A defect or discrepancy in an aid to navigation;
  • A hazardous condition as defined in 33 CFR 160.203;
  • Improper operation of vessel equipment required by 33 CFR 164;
  • A situation involving hazardous materials for which a report is required by 49 CFR
         176.45; and
  • A hazardous vessel operating condition as defined in 33 CFR 161.2.