Until recently, recoverable voyage data recorders had been known only from
Since July 2002, ships have to be equipped with such systems as well. In
the initial phase, VDR are mandatory on board all ferries, new passenger ships,
and all new ships of 3,000 gross tonnage and upwards. The internationally recognized
BSH testing laboratory is type-testing prototypes of shipboard VDR (also known
as maritime Black Boxes) before they are allowed to go into series production.
In their technical specifications, shipborne voyage data recorders are far
superior to aircraft black boxes because they store a much larger variety of
data. Besides the usual voice recording feature, VDR systems also guarantee
loss-free storage of all important navigational and engine data and record the
radar display four times a minute. Safely stored in a protective capsule, the
data records covering the last 12 hours are continuously overwritten with latest
data. The units must be capable of withstanding heavy collisions, fires, and
pressure conditions in several thousand metres of water.
Unlike shipborne automatic identification systems (AIS), VDR do not support
safe navigation in the proper sense. The purpose of Maritime Black Boxes is
to act as a reliable data source in the reconstruction of marine casualties.
They will help to avoid past mistakes and increase the safety of navigation