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VMS (Vessel Monitoring System)

Main VMS operators, systems and transceivers and our users’ feedback on various seas and oceans.

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Created in Europe in the early 2000s, it is one of the tools for surveillance and information gathering on fishing ships. Since 2009, all European fishing ships over 15m are mandatorily required to be equipped with VMS  .
Gradually and most notably under the aegis of the FAO   the VMS has gone far beyond the borders of Europe.

This terminal, or MTU   Transceiver, must transmit, at least once every two hours, its latitude and longitude, its course and speed, over and above the fixed identity data of the ship. The data format is defined (North Atlantic Format) but will be subject to change in the coming years.

Initially, VMS Transceiver used exclusively satellite support but for a few years now Global Packet Radio System and Global System for Mobile support is accepted by fishing authorities (see photos of today’s Transceiver below). They are called “hybrid” Transceiver, including, besides the modern Global Navigation Satellites System [like GPS (USA), GLONASS (Russia) and now GALILEO (Europe)] a satellite modem (Iridium or Inmarsat) and a GPRS   modem. Very often the electronic card accepts 2 SIM cards (for two separate operators, one local, one remote).

Balises VMS

Globally, the majority of fishing ship of a size above 15m (about 4 million) are equipped with VMS. In certain cases, and despite the existence of local legislation, equipping the fishing fleet with VMS has encountered delays, essentially for political reasons (Algeria and Tunisia, for example). Other countries, like the Arabian Peninsula, have regulation supports which are insufficiently accurate to bolster its installation.

The challenge of the next decade will be the artisanal fleet of a size less than 12m with inexpensive solutions strong on security functions.


Union VMS is a European project whose goal is to offer an open-source and free VMS. This project firmly believes that cooperation is the sole means by which to define the level of coherence among member states. Under the authority and financing of DG Mare, the project chief is Sweden.

The timetable of this project is tied to the increasing cooperation between Member States and the European Commission as much as is the radical change of data exchange between parties due to the introduction of FLUX  , Fisheries Language for Universal Exchange.

All Member States are connected to each other via FLUX  . They have become more dependent on each other in order to become a harmonious system... a lesson learned from the first attempts at introducing the Electronic Logbook. Each Member State has, in fact, developed its own logbook based on the XML   (Extensible Markup Language) requested but it has led to a certain cacophony of exchanges between Member States today.

The U-VMS project is part of the larger FOCUS project (Fisheries Open Source Solution) and its community of developers of free software. They remain for the moment at the project stage but there can be little doubt that subsequent implementations will modify the VMS landscape and very probably the current VMS buoys.


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