How is VDR data actually used?
While we tend to get focused on the technology of VDR or the regulations that mandate it, it’s important not to forget that the data they record and store is essential to safety at sea. In maritime accident investigation, the VDR can provide important information to help determine the cause of an accident and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
When a marine casualty occurs, investigators will retrieve the VDR and analyze the data it has recorded. The VDR typically records a variety of information, including the ship's position, speed, course, heading, and engine status, as well as information on the ship's communications with other vessels, the ship's crew, and any external systems or equipment. This data can provide valuable insights into what happened leading up to and during the accident.
Once the VDR is retrieved, the data is analyzed to reconstruct the events leading up to the accident. Investigators will review the ship's route and speed, as well as any communications that took place between the ship and other vessels or shore facilities. The data can also help investigators understand how crew members responded to the situation, and whether they followed established safety procedures.
The different types of VDR data can affect the outcome of an accident investigation in many ways.
Position data: The VDR records the ship's position and track throughout the voyage. In an investigation, this data can help determine the ship's course and speed leading up to an accident, as well as any course changes or maneuvers that were made. For example, if a ship runs aground, the position data can help investigators determine whether the ship was following a safe route, whether the ship deviated from the planned course, or whether the ship's navigation system malfunctioned.
Speed and engine data: The VDR records the ship's speed and engine data, including RPMs and throttle settings. In an investigation, this data can help determine whether the ship was operating within safe parameters, and whether the ship's speed or propulsion contributed to the accident. For example, if a ship collides with another vessel, the speed and engine data can help determine whether the ship was traveling at a safe speed, whether the ship attempted to slow down or change course to avoid the collision, and whether the ship's engines were operating correctly.
Communications data: The VDR records all communications that occur on the ship's bridge, including radio calls to other vessels, internal communications between crew members, and alarms and alerts from the ship's systems. In an investigation, this data can help determine whether the crew followed established safety procedures, whether they communicated effectively with other vessels or shore facilities, and whether they were aware of any potential hazards. For example, if a ship collides with a stationary object, the communications data can help determine whether the crew was aware of the object's location and took appropriate action to avoid it.
Sensor data: The VDR records data from the ship's sensors, such as the radar and other navigational aids. In an investigation, this data can help determine whether the ship's sensors were functioning properly and whether the crew was using them effectively. For example, if a ship collides with another vessel in poor visibility, the sensor data can help determine whether the crew was relying on the ship's radar and other sensors to navigate safely.
Overall, the VDR provides a wealth of data that can be used to reconstruct the events leading up to an accident and determine its cause. By analyzing different types of VDR data, investigators can gain a more complete understanding of the circumstances surrounding the accident and make recommendations to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
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