Overview of Traffic Separation Schemes

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Example of a TSS on a chart

A Traffic Separation Scheme is an area in the sea where navigation of ships is highly regulated. It is meant to create lanes in the water and ships in a specific lane are all going in (roughly) the same direction.

A TSS is created in locations with dense shipping where ships can go in different directions and where there is a high risk of collisions. In the overview below the regulating authority is always the IMO unless stated differently)

If below TSS or Routing Scheme is not governed by the IMO the governing body will be mentioned between ' (brackets).

Traffic Separation Schemes and similar routing-systems can be found at:[1]

Atlantic Ocean: East[edit]


Irish Sea[edit]

English Channel[edit]

The English Channel connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Southern part of the North Sea and belong to the busiest shipping areas in the world with ships going in numerous direction: you have ships that are 'just' passing through from the Southwest to Northeast (or vice versa), ships going to or departing from one of the many ports around the English Channel and then the ferries crossing the channel. In the English Channel several TSS schemes are in operation:[1][2]

Southern North-Sea[edit]

The Southern North Sea overlaps the TSS mentioned in the English Channel above[1]

Russia and Norway[edit]

TSS in these areas aren't governed by the IMO but by either the government of Russia (marked: R) or the Norwegian government (marked N)

Baltic Sea[edit]

Most TSS in the Baltic Sea are governed by the IMO, but some are the responsibility of the local country.

North Sea: Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands[edit]

In the area of the North Sea which lies North of the earlier mentioned Dover Straits several TSS are in place to manage the traffic to and from some of the busiest ports in the world such as: Port of Rotterdam, Bremerhaven, Port of Amsterdam, Antwerp etc. All of these TSS and routing-schemes are governed by the IMO

Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea[edit]

Numerous TSS and similar routing-schemes are active in the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea and the waters within this area such as the Adriatic Sea. On the charts of the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office some 56 schemes can be found.[1] Many of these schemes are governed by the local state, such as Italy, Spain, Croatia etc.)

Some of the most important TSS are mentioned below. A complete list can be retrieved from the Notice 17: TRAFFIC SEPARATION SCHEMES AND INFORMATION CONCERNING ROUTEING SYSTEMS SHOWN ON ADMIRALTY CHARTS[1]

Atlantic Ocean: West[edit]

On the Western shores of the Atlantic Ocean you can find the coasts of North America with the United States of America and Canada. Then there is the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the South American coast.

Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico[edit]

East Coast of North America[edit]

Indian Ocean[edit]

Indian Ocean: Africa[edit]

Apart from the TSS schemes in the Mediterranean above the African continent has only a few TSS schemes around the waters of South Africa:

Arabian Peninsula[edit]

This covers the Red Sea, Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf. Some 15 TSS schemes can be found in this area: in the Red Sea you find the traffic using the Suez Channel while in the Persian Gulf much of the traffic are the (large) oil and gas tankers to Iran and Iraq. All TSS here are governed by the IMO, except the Approaches to Yanbu which is the responsibility of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)

Central Indian Ocean[edit]

The Indian Ocean region links in the West with the (above) area of the Arabian Sea and the African Continent. And in the East it borders with the Pacific Ocean. Apart from schemes in these border-areas only two TSS are mentioned around India and Sri Lanka:

Malacca Strait, Singapore Strait and Sumatra[edit]

On the Eastern borders of the Indian Ocean you find the Malacca Strait, Singapore Strait and the waters around the Indonesian island of Sumatra. This is a very busy shipping area and also very dangerous (see also this section).

Pacific Ocean[edit]

China Seas[edit]

Some 25 TSS schemes are in operation in and around the China Seas. Shipping is very busy around Hong Kong, the mainland of South-East China and around Taiwan.

Some of the most important TSS schemes in this area:


In Japan there are 5 TSS Schemes all governed by the Japanese government. Apart from these mandatory schemes there are also Voluntary and Recommended schemes. These are not shown on Admiralty Charts and (thus) not shown in this overview

Korea and Russia (Pacific Coast[edit]

In (North) Korean and Pacific Russian waters some 35 schemes are in operation with only 5 of them being governed by the IMO. All major ports in this area have a TSS in operation. In North Korea none of the TSS schemes are IMO schemes; only locally governed by the North Korean central government. Below an overview of the IMO schemes and some of the most important locally governed schemes:

Philippines, Borneo and Indonesia[edit]

There are six TSS around the Philippines and one in Malaysia. None of them are governed by the IMO:

Australia and Papua New Guinea[edit]

In this area there are 5 TSS in operation: two in the Bass Strait, governed by the IMO and three leading to Australian ports, governed by Australia.

Aleutian Islands, Alaska, US West Coast, Canada and Mexico[edit]

On the East side of the Pacific Ocean the TSSes are divided in two groups: the North side with the West Coast of Mexico and everything North of that. And the other group are formed by the West coast of Central and South America.

The TSS in the far North around the Aleutian Islands and Alaska are not put in place because of the high density of shipping but the nature of the ships and the vulnerability of the area.

The TSS schemes are:

Pacific: Central and South America[edit]

The IMO governs 16 TSS schemes on the Pacific side of Central and South America:

  • landfall and approaches to Talara Bay, Peru
  • landfall and approaches to Bahia de Paita, Peru
  • landfall of Puerto Salaverry, Peru
  • landfall and approaches to Chimbote or Ferrol Bay, Peru
  • approaches to Callao, Peru
  • landfall and approaches to San Martín
  • landfall and approaches to San Nicolas Bay
  • landfall and approaches to Puerto Ilo
  • landfall and approaches to Arica
  • landfall and approaches to Iquique
  • landfall and approaches to Antofagasta
  • in the approaches to Quintero Bay
  • in the approaches to Valparaíso
  • in the approaches to Bay of Concepción
  • in the approaches to Bahía San Vicente, Chile
  • in the approaches to Puntas Arenas

Sources and references[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 UK Hydrographic Office: TSS shown on Admiralty Charts, retrieved: 28 April 2012
  2. National Archive Dover Straits TSS chartlet, retrieved: 28 April 2012
  3. IMO website with a chartlet of the waters around Singapore, visited 28 April 2012