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Communications Guide

Third Edition: July, 1995

VTS San Francisco is divided into two sectors, to distribute the traffic management load. The Offshore Sector operates primarily as an advisory broadcast service, providing information about VTS participants for the benefit of non-participants. The Inshore Sector is an interactive system, with custom traffic reports for each participant. The Offshore Sector includes the main approaches to San Francisco from the North, South, and West. It also extends further out, to a limit of 38 nautical miles from Mount Tamalpais; and finds its inner limit at the edge of the Precautionary Area surrounding the San Francisco Sea Buoy, 11 nautical miles west of the Golden Gate. The Inshore Sector begins at this Precautionary Area, and includes all of San Francisco Bay south to Redwood City, and the connecting waterways north and east as far as Sacramento and Stockton.

Offshore Sector Procedures

When you should listen: What you'll hear:
At 15 minutes and 45 minutes past every hour on channel 12.
  • vessel name,
  • bearing and range from the San Francisco Sea Buoy,
  • course and speed,
  • and ETA information.
Anytime
  • Large ships contacting VTS with updates on their positions, courses, and speeds.

Inshore Sector Procedures

General Procedures For All Vessels:

What radio channels should I use?

  • Use channel 14 for communications between VTS and participating vessels from the San Francisco Precautionary Area eastward. (Inshore)
  • "Do you speak Channel 14?" a primer for those who are channel 14 challenged.
  • Use channel 13 for Bridge-to-Bridge communications.
  • Use channel 12 for communications between VTS and participating vessels in the Offshore Sector.
  • Use cellular phones for administrative calls.
  • Be alert for radio calls to your station;
  • Call VTS ("TRAFFIC") whenever necessary.
  • All VTS Users maintain a continuous listening watch on channel 13 and channel 14 within the Inshore Sector.
  • Who are VTS "Users"?

  • Vessels subject to the Bridge-to-Bridge Radiotelephone Act, which are (1) power-driven vessels of 20 meters or over in length; (2) vessels of 100 gross tons and upward carrying one or more passengers for hire; (3) towing vessels of 26 feet or over in length; and (4) dredges and floating plants engaged in or near channels or fairways.
  • VMRS Users, which are (a) power-driven vessels of 40 meters or more in length; (b) towing vessels of 8 meters or more in length, while navigating; or (c) vessels certificated to carry 50 or more passengers for hire, when engaged in trade.
  • See the vessel-specific sections below for more detail.
  • What about Channel 16?

    • Fishing vessels and recreational vessels equipped with radios are reminded that federal regulations (47 CFR 80.310) generally require that they monitor channel 16 whenever the radio is operating and not being used to communicate.
    • In addition, fishing vessels and recreational vessels are encouraged to monitor the VTS radio channels listed at the left, as needed, to gather traffic movement information.

    Procedures for Specific Vessels:

    There are three classes of VTS User: passenger vessels, power-driven vessels, and towing vessels. There are four report types that may be required of each. In general, communications with VTS are brief, succinct, and to the point.

      Passenger Vessels
    (50+ passengers for hire,
    while engaged in trade.)

    Sailing Plan Report

    Call VTS 15 minutes prior to entering the VTS Area (5 minutes if on a set schedule and route), and report the following:
  • Vessel name,
  • position,
  • destination,
  • route.
  • Also, request or decline a traffic report, and acknowledge it.

    Position Report

    Call VTS when underway, as well as:

    If you are on a set schedule and route, you are exempt from making this call.

    Sailing Plan Deviation Report

    Call VTS to report the following:
    • amplification or changes to reported information,
    • an intent to deviate from VTS order, or
    • when off schedule more than 15 minutes.

    Final Report

    Call VTS at destination or when out of VTS area.

    If you are on a set schedule and route, you are exempt from making this call.

     

      Towing Vessels
    (8+ Meters in length while towing astern or alongside, or pushing ahead.)

    Sailing Plan Report

    Call VTS 15 minutes prior to entering the VTS Area, and report the following:
  • Vessel name,
  • position,
  • destination,
  • route,
  • whether towing astern or pushing,
  • number of barges and total gross tonnage,
  • deepest draft,
  • tug frequency.
  • Listen to and acknowledge VTS traffic report.

    Position Report

    Call VTS when underway, as well as:

    Sailing Plan Deviation Report

    Call VTS to report the following:
  • amplification or changes to reported information, or
  • an intent to deviate from a VTS order,
  • Final Report

    Call VTS at destination or when out of VTS area.

    Note: Light tugs 40+m, use power-driven vessel procedures.

     

      Power-driven Vessel
    (40+ Meters in length.)

    Sailing Plan Report

    Call VTS 15 minutes prior to entering the VTS Area, and report the following:
    • Pilot & vessel name,
    • position,
    • destination,
    • route,
    • draft,
    • tug frequency .
  • Listen to and acknowledge VTS traffic report.
  • Position Report

    Call VTS when underway, as well as:

    Sailing Plan Deviation Report

    Call VTS to report the following:
  • amplification or changes to reported information, or
  • an intent to deviate from a VTS order.
  • Final Report

    Call VTS at destination or when out of VTS area.


    Marine Events: Only one vessel should check in with VTS; this vessel should be the committee boat, race deck, or event organizer.

    Check In

    Call VTS and report the following:

    • Committee boat name,
    • event name and permit number,
    • number and type of vessels,
    • event location,
    • start and stop time,
    • radio guard channel.

    Listen to and acknowledge VTS traffic report.

    Monitor traffic

    • Using channel 14 - VTS Inshore Sector.

    Update VTS

    • Report major changes.

    Check Out

    • When complete.

    General: Use Cellular Phone Whenever Possible.

     

    Inshore Sector Reporting Points: Reporting points are locations where Users are directed to contact VTS. Additional reporting points may be required under some circumstances, such as heavy traffic or low visbility.
    • Pilot Area or point of entry into VTS Area
    • San Mateo Bridge
    • Redwood Creek Entrance Light 2
    • ***Dumbarton Bridge
    • Richmond-San Rafael Bridge
    • 'ECHO' Buoy, San Pablo Strait Channel
    • Petaluma Channel Daybeacons 1-2
    • ***Petaluma Channel Daybeacon 19
    • Mare Island Strait Light 1 (when transiting Mare Island Strait)
    • ***Mare Island Causeway Bridge
    • Carquinez Bridge
    • Southern Pacific Railroad Bridge

    *** Indicates boundary of VTS Area.

    • Naval Weapons Station
    • New York Point
    • Antioch Bridge
    • Prisoners Point
    • Rio Vista Bridge
    • Sacramento Deep Water Channel light 51 & light 65
    • At destination or upon departing the VTS Area.

     

    Amplifying the Sailing Plan: Vessel Movememt Reporting System (VMRS) Users shall provide the following:
    • Offshore Traffic Separation Scheme intentions PRIOR TO passing Point Bonita when outbound; or
    • Central Bay Traffic Lane intentions (Deep Water, Eastbound, or Westbound) PRIOR TO passing Golden Gate Bridge, Pt. Blunt, or Blossom Rock buoy as appropriate; or
    • Oakland Bay Bridge intentions PRIOR TO passing Blossom Rock buoy or entering the precautionary area from the south.
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    Last Modified 9/19/2013