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Voyage Data Recorders are the black box of the marine industry. Like its cousin, the aircraft black box, it continuously records vital information in the operation of the vessel such as speed, engine telegraph, gyro heading, radar images, GPS information, communications, bridge conversations, etc. This information is continuously transferred to a float free device located on the flying bridge. In the event of a sinking, the VDR can be recovered and a reconstruction of the events leading up to the sinking examined.

The following is a timetable for fitting VDR's.

To assist in casualty investigations, ships, when engaged on international voyages, subject to the provisions of regulation 1.4, shall be fitted with a voyage data recorder (VDR) as follows:

  1. Passenger ships constructed on or after 1 July 2002.
  2. Passenger ferries constructed before 1 July 2002 not later than the first survey on or after 1 July 2002.
  3. Passenger ships other than passenger ferries constructed before 1 July 2002 not later than 1 January 2004.
  4. Ships, other than passenger ships, of 3,000 gross tonnage and upwards constructed on or after 1 July 2002.

Note: Administrations may exempt ships, other than passenger ferries, 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.