Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Big Brother

For those worried with telephone spying (a major issue now in Portugal) imagine your everyday workplace (ship’s bridge) having devices for continuously record every conversation…

Voyage Data Recorders, used for decades on airplanes and only recently adopted by IMO, reminded me of how delayed we are comparing with other high-risk industries such as aviation, offshore and nuclear, to name a few.

Although I consider that every step towards increased safety is to be celebrated I wonder why we, at the shipping industry, are still decades behind the aviation industry on safety-related matters.

There are many examples of procedures and equipment used for a long time on aviation that are only being adopted by the shipping industry as an answer to mediatised accidents. Shouldn’t IMO be proactive on these issues?

Bridge resource management courses (BRM), simulator training, VDR’s, fatigue management, luggage and cargo scanning and so on, are mandatory issues for airlines and aviation pilots. IMO takes the “recommendation” approach towards ship’s officers and irresponsible shipowners (most of them) appreciate it.

Now for those not familiar with this Big Brother, the wikipedia definition:

Voyage Data Recorder, or VDR, is a data recording system designed for all vessels required to comply with the IMO's International Convention SOLAS Requirements (IMO Res.A.861(20)) in order to collect data from various sensors on board the vessel. It then digitizes, compresses and stores this information in an externally mounted protective storage unit. The protective storage unit is a tamper-proof unit designed to withstand the extreme shock, impact, pressure and heat, which could be associated with a marine incident (fire, explosion, collision, sinking, etc).

The protective storage unit may be in a retrievable fixed unit or free float unit (or combined with EPIRB) when the ship sunk in marine incident. The last 12 hours of stored data in the protected unit can be recovered and replayed by the authorities or ship owners for incident investigation. Beside the protective storage unit, the VDR system may consist of recording control unit and data acquisition unit, which connected to various equipment and sensors on board a ship.

Although the primary purpose of the VDR is for accident investigation after the fact, there can be other uses of recorded data for preventive maintenance, performance efficiency monitoring, heavy weather damage, accident avoidance and training purpose to improve safety and reduce running cost.

Simplified Voyage Data Recorder (S-VDR), as defined by the requirements of IMO Performance Standard MSC.163(78), is a lower cost simplified version VDR for small ships with only basic ship's data recorded.

1 comment:

Joao Quaresma said...

Very interesting indeed.

It would be useful to have a (cilian) bridge simulator in Portugal. I believe the Portuguese Navy plans to have one in the near future, to train frigate crews. Empordef-TI, a branch of the state defence holding Empordef, has experience in designing and making aircraft and maintenance simulators and would therefore be a possible supplier for a merchant marine simulator. Now, it's all a matter of lobying...