International routing measures for shipping (IMO)

Ships’ routing establishes an international predetermined path for ships to navigate in order to avoid navigational hazards such as collisions and subsequent damages to ships, crew members, and the marine environment. IMO is the only internationally recognized competent body for establishing such systems, and its responsibilities are enshrined in the SOLAS convention Chapter V.

Traffic separation schemes as well as other ships’ routeing measures have now been established in most of the heavily congested shipping areas around the world including the North Sea. In addition to the traffic separation schemes, other ships’ routeing measures that exist include:  

  • Two-way routes: A two-way track for guidance of ships through hazardous areas.
  • Recommended tracks: A route of undefined width, for the convenience of ships in transit, which is often marked by centreline buoys
  • Deep water routes: Routes within defined limits which have been accurately surveyed for clearance of sea bottom and submerged articles
  • Precautionary areas: An area within defined limits where ships must navigate with particular caution and within which the direction of flow of traffic may be recommended
  • Areas to be avoide: An area within defined limits in which either navigation is particularly hazardous or it is exceptionally important to avoid casualties and which should be avoided by all ships, or by certain classes of ships.

Given the intense maritime traffic in the southern part of the North Sea the following ships’ routeing measures have been adopted by the IMO.