Voyage Data Recorders
Passenger ships and ships other than passenger ships of 3000 gross tonnage and
upwards constructed on or after 1 July 2002 must carry voyage data recorders (VDRs)
to assist in accident investigations, under regulations adopted in 2000, which entered
into force on 1 July 2002.
The mandatory regulations are contained in chapter V on Safety of Navigation
of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974.
Like the black boxes carried on aircraft, VDRs enable accident investigators
to review procedures and instructions in the moments before an incident and help
to identify the cause of any accident.
Under regulation 20 of SOLAS chapter V on Voyage data recorders (VDR), the following
ships are required to carry VDRs:
- passenger ships constructed on or after 1 July 2002;
- ro-ro passenger ships constructed before 1 July 2002 not later than the first survey on or after 1 July 2002;
- passenger ships other than ro-ro passenger ships constructed before 1 July 2002 not later than 1 January 2004; and
- ships, other than passenger ships, of 3,000 gross tonnage and upwards constructed on or after 1 July 2002.
- VDRs are required to meet performance standards "not inferior to those adopted by the Organization".
Performance standards for VDRs were adopted in 1997 and give details on data
to be recorded and VDR specifications. They state that the VDR should continuously
maintain sequential records of preselected data items relating to status and output
of the ship's equipment and command and control of the ship. The VDR should be installed
in a protective capsule that is brightly coloured and fitted with an appropriate
device to aid location. It should be entirely automatic in normal operation.
Administrations may exempt ships, other than ro-ro passenger ships, constructed
before 1 July 2002, from being fitted with a VDR where it can be demonstrated that
interfacing a VDR with the existing equipment on the ship is unreasonable and impracticable.
Regulation18 of SOLAS chapter V on Approval, surveys and performance standards
of navigational systems and equipment and voyage data recorder states that:
The voyage data recorder (VDR) system, including all sensors, shall be
subjected to an annual performance test. The test shall be conducted by an approved
testing or servicing facility to verify the accuracy, duration and recoverability
of the recorded data. In addition, tests and inspections shall be conducted
to determine the serviceability of all protective enclosures and devices fitted
to aid location. A copy of a the certificate of compliance issued by the testing
facility, stating the date of compliance and the applicable performance standards,
shall be retained on board the ship.
The MSC at its 79th session in December 2004 adopted amendments to regulation
20 of SOLAS chapter V (Safety of Navigation) on a phased-in carriage requirement
for a shipborne simplified voyage data recorder (S-VDR). The amendment enters into
force on 1 July 2006.
The regulation requires a VDR, which may be an S-VDR, to be fitted on existing
cargo ships of 3,000 gross tonnage and upwards, phasing in the requirement for cargo
ships of 20,000 gross tonnage and upwards first, to be followed by cargo ships of
3,000 gross tonnage and upwards.
The S-VDR is not required to store the same level of detailed data as a standard
VDR, but nonetheless should maintain a store, in a secure and retrievable form,
of information concerning the position, movement, physical status, command and control
of a vessel over the period leading up to and following an incident.
The phase-in is as follows:
To assist in casualty investigations, cargo ships, when engaged
on international voyages, shall be fitted with a VDR which may be a simplified voyage
data recorder (S VDR) as follows:
- in the case of cargo ships of 20,000 gross tonnage and upwards constructed before 1 July 2002, at the first scheduled dry-docking after 1 July 2006 but not later than 1 July 2009;
- in the case of cargo ships of 3,000 gross tonnage and upwards but less than 20,000 gross tonnage constructed before 1 July 2002, at the first scheduled dry-docking after 1 July 2007 but not later than 1 July 2010; and
- Administrations may exempt cargo ships from the application of the requirements when such ships will be taken permanently out of service within two years after the implementation date specified above.