Traffic separation schemes

The world’s first traffic separation scheme was established in the Dover Straits (English Channel) in 1967, in a bid to reduce the number of shipping accidents in this high risk area. This scheme became the first mandatory traffic scheme in 1971. Similar schemes have now been brought into force in the majority of the highly congested shipping areas of the world.

In France, a mandatory traffic separation scheme was set up off the coast of Ushant Island in Brittany, as a result of the Amoco Cadiz disaster. A high sea tug, the Abeille Bourbon, is permanently on standby. As the upshot of several incidents, a system came into force in this high risk area in May 2003. These vessels must indicate the nature of their cargo to Corsen Marine Rescue Coordination Centre which manages the Ushant traffic separation scheme. The authority to have a vessel suffering structural damage towed is in the hands of the Préfet maritime (maritime prefect), where the vessel does not comply with formal notice to be assisted.

More information

International regulation in heavy traffic areas
Circulation in the Ushant traffic separation scheme


Similar traffic separation schemes are in place in other parts of Europe, such as the Spanish Cape Finisterre and the Strait of Gibraltar. These schemes aim to reduce the risk of collision and ensure that vessels transporting dangerous goods remain far from the coast. Ocean rescue tugs are also on standby in various accident black spots such as the Shetland Islands (Scotland, Great Britain) and the north coast of Spain.

The French ocean rescue and salvage tug the Abeille Bourbon