The Messina Centre for Specialized VTMIS training and operational activities of the Coast Guard, which was inaugurated in November 2011, was born from the need to train highly qualified personnel to be employed in control systems and vessel traffic management, with particular reference to VTS systems (Vessel Traffic Services - services to maritime traffic).

The VTS provides, through an exchange of radio communications between vessels and control centres, an essential support to the board controls by helping to ensure a safer and more efficient conduct of the navigation for the safety of life at sea and the protection of the marine and coastal environment.

The VTMIS (Vessel Traffic Management Information System) is a system for collecting and processing data collected from the peripheral VTS systems as well as those from other marine traffic monitoring systems managed by the Coast Guard in a single integrated system, whose data can be shared with other organizations and government agencies, other European Union countries and also at international level.

The guidelines laid down by IMO and IALA require that the staff working in the VTS centres (supervisors and operators) are properly trained and qualified.

Legislative decree n. 18 dated 16th February 2011 adopted and expanded this principle by providing that the staff employed in the VTMIS is qualified at the VTMIS training centre of the administration.

The Messina Training Centre responds to these needs by ensuring the training and education of the professional roles identified for the technical-operating management of VTS and VTMIS systems.

The training criteria are adhering to international standards and guarantee the high qualification of the staff employed in the system. Among the objectives of the Centre, in addition, is also the training of personnel to be employed in other systems and for other activities of institutional interest of the Coast Guard (Search and Rescue - SAR radio operators – GMDSS - etc.).

The Centre was realized at Punta San Raineri in the area Falcata of the port of Messina, in the district of the local Naval Base of the Navy. The Centre has four multimedia lecture rooms, 1 conference hall with a capacity of more than 80 people, 2 laboratories/workshops for training of maintenance technicians, 1 lecture room for the system simulator/trainer, with a capacity to provide comprehensive training for each session up to 80 attendees. 

The logistics and training instruments are designed to ensure the efficient running of the lessons, and in support of the theoretical and practical training programmes. To this end, the training centre consists of:

-       system simulator trainer: the structure of the simulator responds to the need to ensure a high capacity for rehabilitation or integration of existing components with the goal of creating a simulation system as close as possible to reality and to allow adaptation to any IMO / IALA regulatory changes. The simulator trainer system includes a Generator and Animator of scenario workstation that allows the creation and animation of the scenarios used during training exercises. The system, as a whole, is able to animate a simulated scenario created according to the will of the instructor and is calibrated for different training needs. This allows operators to train in an environment that mimics the operating conditions of a real system. Through the scenarios database, it is possible to memorize some exercises at different levels of difficulty so as to ensure the gradual education of the students. The system allows the instructor to create, control and guide the execution of the exercise with the possibility of recording the actual conduct of the operations carried out by the students so as to allow the subsequent monitoring and evaluation;

-       Radar and communications system: the training centre is equipped with its own radar detection system and all the other apparatus of a modern control VTS centre (radio communication systems, radio direction finder, CCTV camera systems, information systems of presentation of data processing and presentation, etc. .), in order to train personnel to operate in a real environment;

-       Connection with VTS operating systems: the simulator trainer system is connected via dedicated digital link, and through the wide area network administration (System of Public Connectivity), to the sensors and the processors of the VTS control centre of the Strait of Messina, from which it receives the actual data used for educational purposes and replicating a real operating scenario.

The training service is designed to train personnel who in various capacities and with different tasks, will operate within the VTS systems and other systems of monitoring of maritime traffic. In particular at the training centre will be trained and qualified:

VTS operators and supervisors - Professional figures operating in VTS centres in charge of the procedural interchange with ships within VTS areas, for the purpose of delivery of maritime vessel traffic assistance (information, assistance to navigation, Traffic Organization). In the training centre, they must acquire the necessary knowledge to enable them to be able to use all the means dedicated to the operation of the system, the procedures and modalities of interaction with ships, the mastery of the specialist English language, according to the guidelines established by IALA;

Section Heads/Managers of the VTS Centres - Coast Guard officers who are responsible for the management and coordination of the activities of the set VTS Centres. They must acquire knowledge of the principles and operation of the VTS of their jurisdiction, the levels of service to ensure the overall structure and organization. This ability and knowledge must be integrated with the knowledge of operating procedures of the other systems and other operational activities of the Coast Guard.

Technical staff - To this type belong the staff dedicated to control activities and maintenance of the systems, radio equipment and electronic information systems.

The Centre, however, also lends itself to the formation of operators outside the administration (shipping agents, terminal operators, etc.) exchanging basic information with the Maritime Authority to carry out port operations.

The training programmes have been prepared in accordance with IALA recommendations and provide specific itineraries for each of the professional figures described.

The Centre is also equipped with a system of quality management.

The courses are structured in teaching/training modules to ensure the acquisition of all the theoretical and practical knowledge necessary to ensure that the staff at the end of the course, will be immediately able, through the period of on-the-job training to perform their duties with confidence and mastery of the means and procedures. To this end, it is expected that any theoretical subject will be followed by the practical applications necessary to deepen and secure the knowledge gained. Placement tests are scheduled to assess the preparation of learners prior to the beginning of the courses and also to the end of the course, to check the apprehension level. The teaching staff - partly external, partly belonging to the Coast Guard - is highly qualified and experienced in the field of education. At the end of the course a certificate will be issued in recognition of the qualifications gained.

In July last year the VTS National Authority concluded the IALA accreditation procedure of the VTMIS Training Centre and the approval of the courses, with international recognition of certificates issued by the Centre.

Since 2011, the date of the first training course, the VTMIS Centre has trained a total of:

20 Coast Guard Officers

161 Coast Guard Petty Officers

107 Troop Volunteers

26 militaries from other countries​