CHANNEL NAVIGATION INFORMATION SERVICE
Operates the coastal VTS called Dover Strait and provides
a 24 hour service for all shipping. The Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) is seen
as an International waterway where there is freedom of navigation for all ships
and it is the Master's responsibility to navigate his vessel according to the
International Rules for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (COLREGS).
The scheme developed out of limited experiments, which
commenced in 1967, but it was not until 1971 after a serious accident that the
authorities were galvanised into action. The accident involved a tanker in collision
with a cargo ship where the tanker exploded and caused pollution and loss of life.
In fact five ships were involved. Action was taken through the IMO (or IMCO as
it was) which resulted in the formation of The Dover Strait Traffic Separation
Scheme. Shipping is separated into two lanes divided by a separation zone. There
are two inshore traffic zones. The scheme was the first to be set up in the world
and also the first to be under radar surveillance. It was also the first to be
adopted by the IMO and coincided with the revised COLREGS of 1972 which include
Rule 10 (Traffic Separation Schemes) The adoption was not finalised until 1977.
The scheme is administered by two coastal states,
the UK and France. In practice France looks after the NE lane and the UK the SW
lane. There is a constant exchange of information between the two countries via
direct telephone, computer transmission link and facsimile
The objectives of CNIS are to contribute to the safety
of navigation within the area by:-
Encouraging vessels to comply with IMO adopted procedures
for vessels navigating within a TSS.
The provision of the latest information to shipping
on activities, conditions and navigational irregularities which may affect safe
These objectives are achieved by :-
The collection, collation recording and dissemination
of information considered relevant to the safety of navigation of vessels in the
Providing such factual information as may be available
to assist, on request, the safety of navigation.
CNIS broadcasts on VHF radio channel 11 every 60 minutes
(every 30 minutes if visibility drops below two miles) to give warnings of navigational
difficulties and unfavourable conditions in the TSS. These include adverse weather
conditions, misplaced or defective navigational aids and hampered vessels such
as oil rigs, deep draught bulk carriers and tankers and surveying vessels.
Ships using the TSS are automatically tracked by radar
and evidence collected which can be used in possible prosecutions of alleged contravention's
of the COLREGS. If the alleged offending vessel is bound for a UK port then action
may be taken but otherwise the evidence is forwarded to the Flag State for them
to take action under the International Rules.
1972 - CNIS begins
Traffic is monitored by radar from Dover
Traffic separation becomes compulsory for UK registered ships
1973 - France begins radar monitoring from CROSS Gris Nez
1976 - Radar coverage is improved by the installation of new longer range radar at Dover and Dungeness
1977 - Revised Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea come into force
Traffic Separation becomes mandatory for all vessels
1979 - The reporting scheme for oil, chemical and gas carriers, vessels not under command, vessels restricted in their ability to manoeuvre and vessels with a defect in navigational aids introduced.
The new operations centre at Langdon Battery opens
1981 - The passage planning guide for the English Channel is published as an Admiralty Chart
1983 - Radar surveillance is improved by the introduction of Automatic Data Processing
1993 - Radar surveillance improved and extended to three radar stations feeding into a modernised automatic data processing system
1999 - Mandatory ship reporting system for all vessels over 300 gross tonnes introduced - CALDOVREP
2002 - Radar tracking and database modernisation to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
It is said that there were thirty collisions each
year before 1971. Since 1972 the average has dropped to 4 per year, however, it
is plain to see that in 2001 has been a particularly bad year.
1980-1 1986-7 1992-5 1998-2
1981-7 1987-9 1993-0 1999-3
1982-8 1988-5 1994-2 2000-8
1983-1 1989-3 1995-5 2001-12
1984-2 1990-3 1996-2 2002-5
1985-3 1991-4 1997-7
The majority of collisions have been only minor "bumps",
or involved buoys and light vessels which are stationary, and some have been in
overtaking situations. Fishing vessels are a major problem in the Dover Strait
and this is born out by 1997 when five of the seven collisions involved fishing
The following are more serious collisions:
14th May 1994 - Ming Fortune / Ariake Reefer in the vicinity of the Bassurelle lightbuoy, the incident occurred in dense fog, both ships badly damaged and some containers were lost overboard.
18th January 1997 - Bona Fulmar / Teoatle in the vicinity of the F3 light buoy, the Bona Fulmar was holed in the No.5 port tank and lost 5,000 tonnes of gasoline. How it did not explode or catch fire is a Miracle. This also occurred in dense fog.
24th August 1999 - Norwegian Dream / Ever Decent in the vicinity of the F3 light buoy, containers were lost from the Ever Decent and others caught fire, both vessels were badly damaged. The incident occurred in good visibility.
9th October 2001 - Ash / Dutch Aquamarine approximately 9 miles South of Hastings. The Ash was being overtaken by the other vessel and was ran down, the Ash subsequently sank and the Master died as a result of the accident.