A Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) is an integral component of modern fisheries management. It is a system designed to continuously monitor and provide information about the location, course, and speed of fishing vessels. This is done through tracking devices, known as VMS units, installed on board vessels. These devices relay data via satellite and/or GSM networks to a central system, the Fishing Monitoring Centre (FMC) software, which processes and visualizes the data for regulatory authorities and fisheries managers.
Beyond its core functionality of monitoring vessel location and activities, a VMS serves several crucial purposes. It helps ensure that fishing activities remain within designated areas and adhere to established rules and regulations, thus promoting sustainable fishing practices. Additionally, it aids in the enforcement of fisheries laws, facilitating quick response in case of violations. Importantly, a VMS also enhances safety at sea by allowing for real-time vessel tracking and swift response during emergencies, with some units equipped with panic buttons for immediate alert signaling.
VMS can further be integrated with other systems, such as Electronic Logbooks (E-logbook) and Electronic Reporting Systems (ERS), providing a comprehensive solution for fisheries management. This combined system then serves as a vital tool for informed decision-making, helping maintain the health of fisheries and secure the long-term sustainability of marine resources.
Implementing a VMS system brings several key benefits. Primarily, it strengthens monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) capabilities, contributing to the prevention of Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) fishing. The real-time and historical data provided by VMS systems improve transparency and accountability in fishing operations, thereby ensuring compliance with fisheries regulations.
VMS systems also enhance safety at sea by facilitating rapid response to emergencies with features like panic buttons on VMS units. Moreover, by providing essential data for fisheries management and research, VMS systems contribute significantly to sustainable fishing practices and the long-term conservation of marine resources. The ability to integrate multiple databases and VMS units from various providers also allows for greater flexibility, scalability, and customization to meet specific needs.
A VMS is made up of both hardware and software components. On the hardware side, there are VMS units installed on vessels, which along with their related airtime services, transmit essential data about vessel position and activities.
On the software side, there’s the Fishing Monitoring Centre (FMC) software which serves as the heart of the system. The FMC software integrates and processes the raw data from various VMS components, turning it into actionable insights necessary for monitoring vessels, managing fisheries sustainably, and enforcing regulations.
Some systems may also have supplementary software modules like Electronic Logbooks (E-logbook) and Electronic Reporting Systems (ERS).
The FMC software in a VMS system serves several key functions.
First and foremost, it processes and visualizes the data from VMS units, turning raw information into actionable insights. This includes tracking vessel position, speed, and course, and also monitoring the vessel’s compliance with fisheries regulations.
Moreover, it allows for the management and control of data reporting frequency and settings for each vessel. The FMC software also provides data governance capabilities, ensuring that the right stakeholders have access to the relevant data. Importantly, it should be flexible enough to integrate multiple databases and be compatible with various VMS device providers. This functionality underscores the ability to adapt to evolving needs and technologies, offering a more comprehensive and effective solution for fisheries management.
Additionally, the FMC software can support data sharing in fisheries specific formats, particularly FLUX (Fisheries Language for Universal Exchange), and implement further data analysis tools upon request, like fishing activity algorithms.
Lastly, the FMC software can integrate supplementary modules like Electronic Logbooks (E-logbook) and Electronic Reporting Systems (ERS), providing a holistic platform for effective fisheries management.
FLUX, which stands for Fisheries Language for Universal Exchange, is a UN standard for data sharing in fisheries. It is designed to enable the efficient exchange of fisheries data between stakeholders, with the primary objective of detecting and deterring Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) fishing.
The implementation of FLUX is a complex process due to its comprehensive nature. Each FLUX message needs to be verified and standardized against hundreds of business rules within its specific data domains. The core domains of data in FLUX include Vessel, Vessel positions, Fishing Activity, Fishing Licences, Authorizations, and Permits (FLAP), Accumulated Catch Data Reports (ACDR), Master Data Management, and Sales. These domains collectively provide a holistic representation of the fishing activity, adding depth and detail to the data exchanged. In the context of Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), integrating FLUX standards into the Fishing Monitoring Centre (FMC) software enhances data sharing capabilities and improves interoperability. This contributes significantly to the effectiveness of fisheries management and promotes greater transparency and compliance.
AIS, or Automatic Identification System, is a tracking system used on ships and by vessel traffic services for identifying and locating vessels. It operates on Very High Frequency (VHF) and allows vessels to automatically broadcast information, such as a vessel’s identity, type, position, course, speed, navigational status, and other safety-related information.
The AIS units installed on vessels emit a VHF signal with this data in regular intervals. These signals can be received by other nearby vessels, AIS base stations located along coastlines, and by satellite networks. Even though AIS was initially designed for collision avoidance, in the context of Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), AIS data can be integrated into the Fishing Monitoring Centre (FMC) software. This allows it to complement the satellite-based VMS data, providing additional insights for effective fisheries management.
Electronic Reporting Systems (ERS) are integral modules within the Fishing Monitoring Centre (FMC) software. They provide a digital platform for the management and reporting of fishing activities, as well as integrating other data sources such as sales and inspections reports, thereby enhancing accountability and transparency in fisheries management.
Electronic Logbooks, on the other hand, are separate software applications or apps used onboard vessels to document operational data such as details about catch, gear used, effort, and area of operation.
These systems integrate seamlessly into a VMS, thereby offering a comprehensive view of fishing activities. The integration of data from Electronic Logbooks and other external sources such as sales and inspections with the ERS module in the FMC software results in a more complete and accurate picture of fishing operations. This enhanced data fusion significantly improves the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the VMS system.
Choosing the right VMS device is crucial for effective vessel monitoring. Some key considerations include:
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