Marine Communications and Traffic Services

General Information

Our Mission

To provide communications and traffic services for the marine community and for the benefit of the public at large to ensure:

  • Safety of life at sea in response to international agreements
  • Protection of the environment through traffic management
  • Efficient movement of shipping
  • Information for business and the national interest

Our Program

Within the Coast Guard, MCTS provides the initial response to ships in a distress situation, reduces the probability of ships being involved in collisions, groundings, and strikings, and is a cornerstone in the marine information collection and dissemination infrastructure. The safety of ships at sea and on inland waters is highly dependent on efficient distress response, traffic regulating, safety communications, the broadcasts of weather and navigation warnings and the alerting network. The public at large benefits through the protection of water supplies, the marine ecosystem, and the littoral environment. The broad national interest is served through data provided to other government departments for better management of national programs.

Distress - Safety - Communications & Coordination to detect distress situations, ensure timely assistance and savings of lives:

  • Continuous monitoring of international distress and calling frequencies to detect distress situations and ensure speedy resolution of Search and Rescue (SAR) incidents, including the operation of a network of VHF direction finding equipment to improve SAR response time and reduce associated costs.
  • Broadcasting marine safety information such as weather bulletins, ice information and notices to shipping concerning dangers to navigation by means of NAVTEX, Continuous Marine Broadcast and other electronic systems.

Vessel Screening to prevent the entry of unsafe vessels into Canadian waters:

  • Ensuring that vessels intending to enter Canadian waters request clearance to do so and provide pertinent information concerning their status and compliance with applicable Canadian acts and regulations.
  • Implementing compensatory measures for identified ship Defects and/or Deficiencies in order to minimize the possibility of marine pollution.

Regulating Vessel Traffic Movements for marine risk reduction:

  • Providing traffic and waterway information via VHF radio.
  • Providing recommendations and directions, including the delivery of clearances, and under certain conditions, restricting traffic movement.
  • Implementing actions necessary to ensure safe and orderly flow of marine traffic.
  • Providing specialized surveillance for conservation and environmental protection in support of government agencies such as Environment Canada, RCMP, and Agriculture Canada.

Managing an Integrated Marine Information System in support of economic benefits and national interests:

  • Collecting, analyzing and disseminating marine traffic information in support of the activities of other government departments and agencies as well as the marine industry.
  • Initiate, monitor and coordinate the communication network for Coast Guard's responses to emergencies, primarily in the area of search and rescue and pollution prevention.
  • Relaying communications relevant to the efficient administration of other government operations.

Public Correspondence Services to facilitate ship-shore communications:

  • Providing, on a cost recovery basis, ships and agencies on shore with the capability of communicating domestically and internationally for business and private purposes by:
    • Connecting ship/shore telephone calls in the VHF, MF and HF frequency bands.
    • Relaying messages dealing with quarantine and pilotage requests, equipment requirements, loading and discharge instructions and estimated arrival times.

Our Regulatory Framework

In addition to ensuring safe marine navigation, Marine Communications and Traffic Services supports economic activities by optimizing traffic movement and facilitating industry ship/shore communications. All of these functions are derived from a regulatory framework based primarily on the Canada Shipping Act (CSA) and the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS).

The 1989 amendments to the CSA identified and set out important new responsibilities in the area of vessel traffic management. Departmental authority could now recommend regulations establishing vessel traffic service zones and imposing mandatory vessel traffic practices and procedures within those zones (e.g., Vessel Traffic Services Zones Regulations and the Eastern Canada Traffic Zones Regulations).

Canada is also a signatory to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) which requires signatories to make provisions for safety radiocommunications services. MCTS provides the distress safety communications/coordination and maritime safety information broadcasts in response to this international agreements.

Cooperative measures are in place with the U.S.A. also, for contiguous waters such as the Juan de Fuca Strait or the Detroit/St. Clair River.