Do you know how to save your Voyage Data Recorder information? In an alert to its members Gard P&I Club expresses concern over the number of VDR failures and the issue of whether masters know how to save critical data after an accident.
Gard says that it has experienced: “a number of cases where vessels have been unsuccessful in both saving and retrieving vital VDR information.
Failure to be able to produce VDR information may lead to counterparty allegations that might have been prevented and/or proceeded against in a less costly manner had it not been for the lack of VDR evidence”.
In one recent case a large container vessel ran aground. On grounding, the “save” button on the VDR was pressed in accordance with the procedures, but three days later, when a shore technician was contracted to extract the VDR data recordings, it was found that the data had never been saved. It also turned out that the master was not familiar with VDR and that he had never saved data before. The relevant VDR data from the incident had been lost.
Says Gard: “.. lack of understanding and limited in-depth knowledge of the equipment often lead to loss of VDR data even where the equipment is in full working order. Where the VDR information has been successfully preserved, the retrieving and downloading of the data often offers a challenge.
Most VDRs require a manufacturer’s technician to attend in order to download the data. The fact that there are numerous manufacturers and various model types requiring different software versions to be able to view the data make it difficult to retrieve the information and data. VDR systems also have a built-in alarm function that is automatically triggered in the event of a malfunction of the system, however, in some cases the VDR alert function was not triggered by the hardware malfunction.
The VDR loop function may offer an option to retain data from a longer period of time than the 12 hour window required by the IMO performance standard. By adjusting this default the Master has an increased opportunity to preserve the data.
Masters should be reminded that the records will be overwritten within the implemented time frame if the data is not promptly saved.
Regular service by approved service company. To ensure that the VDR is in full working order, tests should be conducted regularly by an approved service supplier to verify the accuracy, duration and recoverability of the recorded data. The contact details of technicians and manufacturer should be easy available.
VDR Software should also be available at relevant location onboard/ashore.
Plan for onboard familiarisation and drills.
Onboard drills should be undertaken regularly, ideally in combination with above mentioned regular service of the VDR unit, to verify that the bridge team is familiar with the procedures and the VDR equipment.
Saving of data should be a part of the emergency response procedures and emergency drills.