Coastal Surveilance System

Globalization has not only led to a significant increase in international trade but also to a significant increase in cross-border crime. International terrorism, trafficking and drug smuggling are issues relevant to government authorities. These activities generally take place on the waterways. As a result, the authorities need to know the identity and intentions of unknown objects in their ports, coasts, and waterways.


Furthermore, this has led to the urgent need for accurate and real-time data about the vessels/boats, its journey, its crew, the passengers and cargo.  Based on the above, the implementation of an Integrated Coastal Surveillance system becomes really important. This system consists of several control stations that are located along the coast to detect and track ships or small boats that get into the coastal areas.


A control station usually consists of an integrated system formed by radar, AIS, and a CCTV system. This control station can communicate to a regional control center or to a national center. It is very common that the national center is manned as there are some decisions to be made in regards of the maritime traffic, surveillance, and coastal protection.

*Common Challenges

Generally speaking, all the countries have some common challenges to overcome when trying to implement a Coastal Surveillance System:

• There are some radars in operation but they partially comply with the international standards.

• The radar stations work independently without centralization.

• Several government authorities have different needs for information and the info gathered from the system is incomplete.

• The control stations have radars from different brands, making it difficult to integrate them in just one system.

• Very old radar stations that offer obsolete technologies.

• Addition of new radars with new technologies that make it difficult to integrate them with obsolete technologies.

• Lack of technical support in terms of operation, maintenance and repair of equipment.

• Low availability of spare parts.

• Lack of technical training.

• Communications systems with low or no bandwidth.

The objective of the Coastal Surveillance system is to detect, identify and track vessel traffic, regardless of design, size and speed.


This system provides valuable information to various governmental agencies such as the Coast Guard, Port Authorities, Customs, etc.


The control station can be of two types according to their use: Traffic Control Station and Coastal Surveillance Station.


The traffic control stations are located in ports, channels or areas where the vessels require assistance during the transit or loading/unloading activities. It is very common these stations have a specialized team of professionals with experience in the traffic maritime world.

The coastal surveillance stations are located in the coast and its main function is to detect and track vessels. These stations generally operate remotely sending information to a command center or regional center.

The main components that make up a control station are:

• Radar



• Meteorological Station

• Radio Communications

It is important to note the coastal surveillance stations can be located in remote locations where there are no public services such as electricity, communications, etc. When electric power is limited, an alternative power generation such as solar energy can be used. Moreover, if there is no fixed communication system, a wireless system can be designed to transmit the data from the control station to the command center.

To be able to successfully integrate the control stations and the command centers we strongly recommend the use of scalable and robust software. This software is known as Vessel Traffic Management Information System (VTMIS). The VTMIS usually integrates different types of sensors (radar, AIS, etc.) no matter the brand. This software allows integrating everything in a safe and reliable system.


Radar is a device that uses electromagnetic waves to measure distance, direction and speed of targets/objectives that can be static or in motion. A basic radar system consists of an antenna, the trans- receptor, the signal processor and a display unit.
The ability of target detection depends on two main factors: the antenna and the signal processor that can be a piece of hardware or software that analyzes the signals by running complex algorithms.


Automatic Identification System (AIS)

The AIS is a transponder-based technology that allows tracking of marine vessels from land stations and from other vessels. The AIS usually operates in the VHF maritime band and is able to send information such as vessel identification, position, course, length, width, type, and project information, hazardous cargo, to other ships and land stations.
These reports and messages are normally in broadcast mode which means that any other vessel, aircraft or ground stations involved in the VHF radio range can monitor transmissions and automatically update reports for each participating vessel.
All SOLAS ships and the ships over 300 gross tons are now equipped with Class A AIS. Right now, almost all ships’ traffic is captured through AIS.



The CCTV system is used to project the target image, locally or remotely at the command and control center. It is a common practice to use this kind of system to detect, recognize and identify the objectives during the day and night through a variety of gray/black shades. The cameras used can be a dual payload PTZ camera formed by a visual and thermal camera.
The CCTV can be integrated with the radar so that it automatically follows the target or objective. It also has the option of being operated manually at the operator convenience.