International Journal
on Marine Navigation
and Safety of Sea Transportation
Volume 3
Number 4
December 2009
The River Information System (RIS) is a package of
solutions for the needs of inland shipping, which has
been worked upon for a dozen years by representa-
tives of most European countries. The underlying
foundation of this concept is harmonising the activi-
ties of all kinds of enterprises, institutions and other
users of inland waterway networks in Europe. It is
high time Poland too should join the group of coun-
tries involved in this undertaking. Directive
2005/44/WE of the European Parliament and Coun-
cil of Europe, along with respective regulations of
the Commission of European Communities
(414/2007 and 415/2007) oblige the member coun-
tries to introduce this type of system. At the same
time they specify requirements pertaining to its im-
plementation, pointing out among other things,
which services should be covered by it. Among them
are Traffic Information service and Traffic Man-
agement. According to assumptions, both should be
based on tracking and tracing of vessels conducting
navigation in inland waters.
Within the framework of European projects there
was called a Tracking and Tracing Expert Working
Group, whose work effected in guidelines providing
the basis for designing tracking systems in RIS
(Tracking and Tracing Expert Group, 2005). They
were subsequently accepted by practically all organ-
isations regulating RIS services in Europe.
The present article sets forth the subject matter
related to target tracking in RIS and the demands
made on it.
Defining vessel tracking in RIS requires the taking
into consideration of a kind of semantic dualism,
ushered in by the European Law in force and its
translation into English, as the European documents
use the English words tracking and tracing, which in
both cases may be translated into Polish as śledzenie.
Therefore, in official translations two separate con-
cepts were introduced. And so, according to Regula-
tion of Commission of European Communities Nr
414/ 2007 13 March 2007 the following definitions
were introduced:
Vessel tracking (Polish śledzenie) means the
function of maintaining status information of the
vessel, such as the current position and character-
istics, and if needed combined with infor-
mation on cargo and consignments.
Vessel tracing (Polish namierzanie) means the re-
trieving of information concerning the wherea-
bouts of the vessel and if needed infor-
mation on cargo, consignments and equipment.
Both definitions partly overlap each other, and
their differentiation becomes more complete, when
the various applications are known for information
obtained in effect of tracking and tracing vessels.
The issue here is first of all division into static in-
formation, pertaining to characteristics of the vessel
or the voyage, and into dynamic information, per-
taining to the vessel’s current navigational situation.
Nevertheless, in almost all RIS-related studies, both
concepts are linked to each other, being two parts of
a conceptual whole.
Target Tracking in RIS
A. Stateczny & W. Kazimierski
Maritime University of Szczecin, Szczecin, Poland
ABSTRACT: The article treats of problems bound with the tracking of surface water targets in RIS systems.
A concept of RIS has been briefly presented, indicating the need for locating in them the tracking and tracing
of ships. The most popular sensors used for the purpose have been characterised, the most important relevant
documents have been presented and the requirements set for tracking systems have been described.
The problem of tracking targets in inland waters ap-
peared automatically at the moment of introducing
supervision of barges and other river vessels. The
traditional technique applied for this purpose was
radar tracking backed up by various communication
technologies, starting from VHF up to cellular te-
lephony. The next step forward is including tracking
in the RIS system.
Since the emergence of the concept of harmo-
nised services for inland shipping in the scope of
RIS a number of documents have been prepared,
which are mainly the result of international pro-
grammes under the aegis of European Communities.
The main participants of those programmes were
countries and firms bound with shipping in west Eu-
rope’s largest rivers. At the same time, the prepara-
tion of RIS standards was the activity of Central
Commission for Navigation on the Rhine (CCNR),
and Permanent International Association of Naviga-
tion Congresses (PIANC). The subject matter of
target tracking has always been an essential part of
RIS services.
In 2000 the programme Inland Navigation De-
monstrator for River Information Services (IN-
DRIS) was completed, organised within the frame-
work of 4. PR of the Directorate-General for
Transport and Energy of the European Commission,
which is the first pan-European attempt at imple-
menting the idea of harmonised RIS services. Within
its scope there were conducted a few demonstrations
of RIS concept on the main inland routes of West
Europe. The possibility was indicated of making use
of techniques applied in marine VTS centres (Vessel
Traffic System), also for tracking inland traffic. It
was to be based on data obtained from shore radar,
but AIS was taken account of as a source of addi-
tional information about targets. (INDRIS, 2000)
Within the scope of 5PR two large RIS-related
programmes were started. The first of them was
ALSO DANUBE, which lasted from 2002 to 2003,
and the other was COMPRIS, a sort of continuation
of INDRIS, which lasted from 2000 to 2005. The
first was oriented to implementing new technologies
of improving shipping on the Danube, the other de-
veloped the concept of pan-European RIS within an
international consortium (more than 11 member
states). In both projects the significance of AIS was
stressed both for tracking and tracing targets. At the
same time, in COMPRIS programme the attention
was directed to the inaccuracies of radar tracking,
resulting both from its characteristic and from the
specificity of traffic in inland water areas, with fre-
quent manoeuvres, especially by course (COMPRIS,
2004). The importance of data fusion and infor-
mation was also stressed, acknowledging that radar
will be only one of the sensors within the tracking
system (COMPRIS, 2005).
Apart from programmes described, within the
scope of RIS European platform and with the sup-
port of Central Commission for Navigation on the
Rhine as also the Danube Commission, expert
groups were called with the objective of working out
standards and requirements related to RIS. One of
the groups handled problems of target tracking and
tracing. Its work was based on guidelines for RIS
systems worked out by PIANC and approved by
CCNR in 2004 (CCNR, 2004). It was pointed out in
the study that AIS-based tracking systems supple-
ment radar tracking, which remains the basic source
of information about vessel tracking. The experts,
without negating this fact, concentrated almost ex-
clusively on AIS development in two variants - In-
land AIS and AIS-IP. Their activity effected in
standards, worked out in 2005, concerning tracking
and tracing of vessels in inland shipping (Tracking
and Tracing Expert Group, 2005), which were fur-
ther adopted by CCNR (CCNR, 2006), and also in-
cluded in a resolution by European Economic Com-
mission at the UN (UNECE, 2007). They state that a
complex tracking system should be made up of vari-
ous types of sensors. The AIS system, however, is
indicated as the unquestionable leader. It may in a
way seem amusing that in the document it is said in
one place that radar should be the basis for the track-
ing system, followed by over 100 pages of consider-
ations pertaining to the AIS system. In this way, a
clear pro-AIS trend looms out among RIS designers,
on a scale surprisingly large in places. For example
the DoRIS system, which regulates navigation in the
Austrian part of the Danube is based exclusively on
AIS and does not avail itself of a radar station. The
question arises here about the safety and reliability
of Inland AIS.
In the writer’s opinion, two things determine the
popularity of AIS. In the first place, the high accura-
cy of dynamic information obtained concerning the
vessel’s movement (assuming the correct function-
ing of the system and the ship’s sensors; in the se-
cond place, the possibility of widening these data by
static information about the vessel’s dimensions,
cargo, port of destination etc. In neither respect does
radar stand comparison with AIS.
From 2003 parallel work went on on introducing
the DoRIS system of river services, covering the
Austrian part of the Danube. In this system, too, AIS
was indicated as the main source of information
concerning vessel tracking and tracing.
As can be observed, in only a few years there
emerged a lot of institutions and consortiums in
connection with RIS introduction in Europe, which
brought fruit in many documents related to RIS
standards and requirements as a whole and vessel
tracking in particular. For the time being, the key
documents in this area are the RIS Directive, accept-
ed by the European Parliament and Council in 2005
(EP and UE Council, 2005), two Regulations 414
and 415 of 2007 by the Commission of the European
Communities, 2007 a & b, as also the previously
mentioned Resolution No.63 of the European Eco-
nomic Commission at the UN (UNECE, 2007). The
RIS Directive is at the moment the basic legal act in
Europe related to RIS. It establishes the framework
for distribution and using harmonised river infor-
mation services (RIS) in the Community. At the
same time, in matters concerning technical details
the Directive refers to the works of European Com-
mission, which issued two regulations on the subject
of tracking in RIS. Regulation 414/ 2007 contains
technical guidelines concerning planning, imple-
menting and operational use of river information
services (RIS), whereas Regulation 415/ 2007 per-
tains to technical specifications related to systems of
vessel traffic control within the scope of RIS.
According to the EU Directive, but also to some ear-
lier works, river information services are a few kinds
of services related to inland shipping, whose harmo-
nisation and standardisation are to serve objectives
resulting from general European needs in the scope
of surface transport. Three basic objectives of intro-
ducing RIS were defined in Regulation KE 414/2007
describing goals to be attained:
transport should be safe;
transport should be efficient;
transport should be friendly to the environment.
The realisation of the above general goals, and al-
so partial objectives resulting from them, should be
possible by supporting particular tasks bound with
inland fleet management. They can be divided into
three groups with respect to “arenas” in which they
are realised (EC, 2007a):
arena of transport logistics, in which parties initi-
ating transport cooperate with parties organising
transport (e.g. senders, consignees, loaders, for-
warders, freight brokers, shipowners);
arena of transport, where the parties organising
the transport cooperate with parties realising
transport (e.g. shipowner, terminal operators);
arena of traffic, in which parties realising
transport (e.g. vessel masters and navigators) co-
operate with parties managing the resulting vessel
traffic (e.g. respective authorities managing the
Looking for a place for vessel tracking in this
flowchart, it will certainly be found among tasks re-
alised in the last arena. In order to present the loca-
tion even more accurately, in Fig.1 there have been
presented particular RIS services, dividing them ac-
cording to Regulation 414/2007 into services related
mainly to traffic and to services related mainly to
transport. It should be noticed that a few services
may be used for performing RIS tasks.
Figure 1 River information services in RIS
In Fig. 1 the services where target tracking can be
used have been marked in blue. Regulation 414/
2007 divides particular RIS services into RIS sub-
services, which are in turn realised by means of re-
spective RIS functions. Table 1 presents a division
of tracking-related services. Specifying the remain-
ing services is not necessary in the aspect of the
study’s subject matter. It should be noted, however,
that information on vessel traffic can be used in ser-
vices other than those marked, although they are not
directly bound with them. For example, for calamity
abatement support information on vessel traffic
seems to be essential.
In the RIS philosophy three information levels
have been introduced (EC, 2007a):
information on fairways (FI);
tactical traffic information (TTI);
strategic traffic information (STI).
From the tracking point of view it is particularly
essential to distinguish between the last two. Traffic-
related services cover mainly these two information
Tactical traffic information is information affect-
ing the vessel master’s or VTS operator’s immediate
decisions made in relation to navigation in real navi-
gational traffic and concerning local traffic. Strategic
traffic information (STI) signifies information af-
fecting medium- and long-term decisions made by
RIS users. (EC, 2007a)
As sources of the tactical image, the radar, elec-
tronic chart and AIS are mentioned. This infor-
mation can be gathered directly on the ship or pro-
vided by the VTS centre. The strategic traffic image
is worked out at the RIS centre and is delivered to
the users on request. Strategic traffic area includes
all vessels of essential significance present in the
RIS area with their characteristics, determination of
cargo and position, presented as a table or plotted on
an electronic chart. So it seems that in a certain gen-
eralisation the tactical traffic image corresponds to
the concept of tracking, and the strategic traffic im-
age is based on the concept of tracing. It should be
remembered, however, that both tracking and tracing
provide different kinds of information, and joining
them gives the fullest tactical and strategic traffic
It is surprising that in the functional decomposi-
tion of RIS services contained in regulations of the
Commission for European Communities, in the part
related to traffic, there is no function realising the
presentation of vessel movement parameters, which
are of key significance both for solving current colli-
sion situations and determining, say, the time of ves-
sels passing each other, or time of reaching the lock.
In the writer’s opinion, lack of such information
seems to be a gross oversight on the part of the au-
thors of the task-service RIS concept, as it is diffi-
cult to imagine constructing TTI or STI without such
information. Only in the service Traffic Manage-
ment there appear functions VTS.2 and VTS.3, in
which use is made of information pertaining to ves-
sel traffic.
The essence of vessel traffic control within the
scope of RIS was presented in more detail in Regu-
lation 415/2007 (EC, 2007b). It was acknowledged
in it that one task of the VTS system was to support
active navigation of vessels in the area. Three stages
of navigation were introduced there:
navigation, prediction in medium time;
navigation, prediction in short time;
navigation, prediction in very short time.
Prediction in medium time denotes observation
and analysis of water traffic in advance of a few
minutes to an hour. The Master considers in that
time possibilities of approaching, passing and over-
taking other vessels. The required image exceeds the
range of deck radar, hence VTS information support
may prove necessary. This is certainly one of the
main areas of making use of tracking.
Prediction in short time is the decision-making
stage in the navigational process. Information con-
cerning traffic affects the navigational process, in-
cluding undertaking actions aimed at avoiding pos-
sible collision. In this stage, other vessels are ob-
served present at a short distance. In particular, it is
essential to track using the ship’s sensors, but shore
centre support may prove equally essential.
Prediction in very short time is the operational
stage of the navigational process that consists in re-
alising decisions made earlier and monitoring the re-
sults of such activities. Information required in this
case from other vessels are bound with the condi-
tions of a given vessels, such as relative position and
relative speed. In this stage it is necessary to give
very accurate data obtained by means of tracking.
As far as making use of tracking goes, the service
Traffic Organisation is equally essential. It concerns
traffic operational control and the planning of the
vessel’s movement in order to avoid traffic jams and
dangerous situations. This service is particularly im-
portant with high traffic intensity or in situations,
where special transports may affect normal traffic in
To sum up it can be stated that tracking vessels
finds application within RIS for building a mainly
tactical, but also strategic traffic image. This in turn
is used by vessel control service and directly by nav-
igators on inland shipping vessels.
The basic documents presenting the standards and
requirements pertaining to tracking in RIS are the
previously mentioned Resolution of European
Commission 414/2007 (EC, 2007a), and also resolu-
tion 63 of the European Economic Commission at
the UN (UNECE, 2007), being the approval of
CCNR Standards, which in turn are the result of
work of an expert group called by the European RIS
platform (CCNR, 2006; Tracking and Tracing Ex-
pert Group, 2005). It should be noticed, however,
that in all these documents references can be found
to IALA work related to requirements in VTS vessel
management systems.
Standards for tracking devices in inland waters
can be considered in two ways. Firstly, from the
ship’s side, that is as requirements for devices
mounted on the vessel, and secondly from the VTS
side, as requirements for shore devices.
In the first case two documents seem to be cru-
cial. The first of them contains requirements pre-
pared by CCNR concerning radar devices mounted
on vessels navigating on the Rhine (CCNR, 2004).
These requirements in turn became the basis for
working out guidelines by the European Telecom-
munication Standardisation Institute related to navi-
gational radar devices in inland waters (ETSI, 2006).
The standards presented both requirements and test-
ing methods. The fact deserves attention that they do
not give guidelines for tracking targets, which is
why it can be concluded that it is not required at all
in river radar. On the other hand, there are relatively
high demands related to measurement accuracy of
targets’ position and discrimination. The document
mentioned does not exclude, however, the possibil-
ity of enriching radar by additional software, which
is why manufacturers frequently apply „tracking
overlays” on the radar, where the tracking accuracy
approximates marine tracking systems.
There are definitely more requirements for track-
ing devices within the scope of VTS systems. Inter-
national tracking and tracing standards recommend
that dynamic data in the VTS should be delivered
with various accuracies for particular services in ac-
cordance with Table 1.
At the same time these documents indicate that
the radar remains the basic source of navigational in-
formation, stressing the considerably rising role of
AIS, which is able to improve significantly the
quality of data acquired about the targets. As the
work of the expert group was concentrated above all
on preparing new AIS standards for inland waters,
however, it seems justified in the Regulation of the
European Commission to refer to IALA documents,
which is the institution to set down VTS standards.
In 2001 there appeared IALA guidelines pertaining
to VTS systems in inland, which subsequently be-
came the resolution of the European Economic
Committee at the UN (UNECE, 2005), and were al-
so adapted by the CCNR (CCNR, 2006). There was
included general information on creating vessel
management systems in inland waters, for more de-
tailed guidelines it being referred to, inter alia,
IALA requirements for devices used in VTS sys-
tems, V-128. This document has lived to a few edi-
tions, the latest of which (3
version) appeared in
2007 (IALA, 2007).
Table 5 Accuracy requirements for dynamic data in VTS
service position SOG COG true course
m km/h º º
Navigation in 10 1 5 5
short time
VTS assistance 10 1 5 5
VTS traffic manag. 10 1 5 5
Lock operation 1 0,5 3
Bridge operation 1 0,5 3
IALA guidelines related to devices in systems of
VTS traffic control were divided into a few sections,
in which various appliances are described. Three
various accuracy levels were introduced for all of
them (basic, standard and extended) bearing in mind
economic and technological indexes.
According to IALA guidelines, radar devices are
the basic source of navigational information. Be-
cause of the specificity of each VTS system (surface
shape, traffic density, economic factors, number of
radar stations etc.) IALA recommends that the com-
petent authority for a given VTS should lay down
individually the requirements for tracking in each
system, at the same time giving approximate refer-
ence values for a single coastal radar station (IALA,
2007). They were divided into three accuracy levels:
basic, standard and advanced. In the last two, the
permissible errors of course and speed determination
are 2º and 1 knot, laid down on the level of one
standard deviation (assuming Gaussian distribution),
for a target moving at uniform motion.
What seems interesting is the status of television
cameras in the RIS concept, and also VTS. Analys-
ing Regulation 414/2007 it can be noticed that the
CCTV camera is mentioned as one of the sensors
providing information on traffic on an inland water-
way; on the other hand, as it does not appear in any
other place in the regulation, its role remains actual-
ly unknown. The Tracking and Tracing Expert
Group does not mention the camera at all, concen-
trating on AIS. Only IALA devotes in their recom-
mendations a little more room to CCTV television,
but still moving about on a very general level. The
camera is indicated there as a potential cheaper than
radar source of information about targets in the VTS
system. It can fulfil the role of a separate sensor, or
supplement information acquired from radar with
additional data, like the ship’s name or kind. The
camera is presented as a good method of supple-
menting radar coverage in a VTS area. The possibil-
ity is admitted that the camera may track targets on
its own, but first of all its identification role is high-
lighted. The camera may show what the radar does
not see, e.g. the kind of vessel or danger. Exact re-
quirements are given with regard to the identifica-
tion function, but there are none such concerning
tracking. The only hint is the statement that in the
scope of reliability, accuracy, range and resolution a
system of industrial television has to meet the re-
quirements of VTS system and expert organisations
in the realm of graphics. In this case, the concept of
tracking seems to take on a meaning from computer
graphics, strictly speaking from computer vision,
where tracking means following something and con-
tinuous monitoring something rather than determin-
ing its movement parameters. Nevertheless, the
camera remains one of the sensors that can be used
in the VTS system as a source of information about
movement and target.
The article characterises the subject matter of track-
ing surface water vessels in RIS systems. This is a
problem many international organisations have been
preoccupied with in recent years and the European
Commission has in some way “dotted the i’s and
crossed the t’s” by issuing directives in the RIS mat-
ter. Fortunately, the organisations mentioned coop-
erated with one another by mostly accepting solu-
tions worked out in common. In their light, as the
basic sources of information about vessels in the RIS
system there appear Inland AIS, tracking radar and
the vision camera within the framework of CCTV
industrial television network.
An unquestioned leader in this area is the AIS
system, whose introduction, also into inland waters,
has opened a completely new chapter in the history
of water traffic control. Its indications, assuming the
correct functioning of the system, are clearly the
most accurate. The radar system, though theoretical-
ly still the basis for tracking targets, ceases to be at-
tractive, not only because it gives a less accurate po-
sition than GPS, but also because it provides
significantly less useful information than AIS. The
camera in turn is a short-range sensor, and its appli-
cation for vessel movement vector estimation is
practically unusual. Therefore, only the linking of
both sensors into one complementary system gives
hope that it will be up-to-date and face the challeng-
es of modern times. What is more, such a system
will have basic advantage over the AIS system,
namely it will be independent from ship sensors and
therefore, the RIS operator will have full control
over it. AIS is based, after all, on information deliv-
ered by other vessels, and so, in case of their im-
proper functioning, it gives erroneous values. The
method of combined tracking based on radar and the
camera seems to be a natural attempt at “unification
of these two sensors in order to meet the require-
ments set for modern tracking systems.
What seems most reasonable is making use of all
mentioned sensors for tracking targets in RIS, which
leads towards multi-sensor fusion of navigational
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No 414/2007 of 13 March 2007 concerning the technical
guidelines for the planning, implementation and operational
use of river information services (RIS) referred to in Arti-
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and of the Council on harmonised river information ser-
vices (RIS) on inland waterways in the Community. Offi-
cial Journal of the European Union. 23 April 2007
European Commission, 2007b. Commission Regulation (EC)
No 415/2007 of 13 March 2007 concerning the technical
specifications for vessel tracking and tracing systems re-
ferred to in Article 5 of Directive 2005/44/EC of the Euro-
pean Parliament and of the Council on harmonised river in-
formation services (RIS) on inland waterways in the Com-
Community. Official Journal of the European Union. 23
April 2007
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