Members News – Australia

Reef VTS Split Between Townsville and Gladstone.


In June 2014, the Reef VTS Management Group agreed that the Reef VTS operations be split. The agreement recognised that:

  • In comparison to other parts of the World, the present Reef VTS area is too large for a VTSO to maintain a high level of situational awareness across the whole area.
  • The split between centres (Townsville, Gladstone) will greatly assist the transition in failover situations.  Both centres will have the equipment to manage the whole area and all staff will be familiar with the entire Reef VTS operation and procedures.
  • At the time of the opening of the Gladstone VTS centre in 2013, the former Queensland Premier (Mr Campbell Newman) made a commitment to the new Gladstone VTS centre managing part of the Reef VTS area.

The timing of the split has been determined by the implementation of the new VTS Decision Support Tool (DST). The DST was implemented in port VTS 2019 and in Reef VTS in December 2020.

Reef VTS North & Reef VTS South – Services will be delivered from the VTS Centres in Townsville and Gladstone, with each centre managing a region for a maximum period of 3 months then alternating and operating the other region for 3 months.  The intent of this model is to ensure consistency and continuity for the whole Reef VTS, plus a level of operational redundancy.

Reef VTS operations will be split into Reef North and Reef South, at latitude 18o 00′.00 South, coinciding with the Regional boundary between Cairns Region and Townsville Region.

Financial Arrangement

In conjunction with the split of Reef VTS operations between Townsville and Gladstone, the funding for VTS salaries will be split between MSQ and AMSA.  

This will equate to 50% of the Townsville VTS and 33% of the Gladstone VTS salaries and related costs will be funded by the Reef Triennial Budget

Under the current Memorandum of Understanding between AMSA and MSQ for the provision of Vessel Traffic Services in the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait (Reef VTS), the contribution by both parties for the Reef VTS Triennial budget are AMSA 60%, MSQ 40 %.

In Preparation

In preparation to split Reef VTS operations between the 2 locations, VTS management in conjunction with Townsville and Gladstone VTS are working to complete the following tasks.

1. Communication between participating vessels and Reef VTS will remain via Inmarsat C messaging and VHF.  In order to separate mandatory reports to Reef VTS into relevant to each sector, new email addresses ( and have been created to allow for the appropriate monitoring centre to administer. The current email address will remain active for a period of time yet to be determined to allow for those reporting vessels not aware of the new changes.

2. Refresher training in Reef VTS operations and in particular Reef operations on MaritimeCONTROL with Gladstone VTSOs.  This is set continue over the next 12 months and until all VTSOs are trained in Reef VTS operations.

3. Gladstone VTS are progressing with recruitment to bring the centre back to full compliment.

4. The Reef VTS user guide has been updated to include the changes relating to the splitting of Reef VTS as well as changes in MaritimeCONTROL on delivery of MSI and SEI. This will hopefully be published by end of September.

5. Final testing and validation of the Reef North and Reef South user default profiles and sectors in MaritimeCONTROL is continuing, and will be completed before end of September

6. Responsibility for telephone communications will remain in Townsville for the initial 3 months. After that, a workload analysis will be conducted between both Reef areas on management of vessel reports, SEI and MSI, incident responses and general duties. Based on the results of the analysis the Reef VTS area with the lesser workload will assume the responsibility of managing telephone communications.


Implementation for splitting the Reef VTS Operations is planned for September 30, 2021.  This will enable us to be in a state of operational readiness prior to the commencement of the 21/22 Cyclone season. 

Analysis of the information and statistics suggests splitting Reef VTS duties at the regional boundary between Townsville and Mackay (20 degrees south) is logical.

With the intention to alternate Reef VTS North and Reef VTS South between both VTS centres on a 3 monthly basis, will ensure the workload is spread evenly over the yearly period.

Business continuity will be maintained across the whole Reef VTS area, and for redundancy in the event of regional centre required to shut down or unable to provide an operational service for Reef VTS due to extreme weather or other extenuating circumstances. The implementation of MaritimeCONTROL has provided the system functionality to operate sectors independently and if required assume the support role and operate multiple sectors at any one time.   These planned changes will ensure Reef VTS has the improved capability to monitor all vessels across the Reef VTS area.

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