Investigations & Casualty Analysis

9/1/2016: Safety alert – Voyage data recorders

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The Coast Guard issued safety alert 12-16 to remind vessel owners and operators to periodically validate the proper operation of their vessel’s voyage data recorder (VDR).

VDR data is extremely important to marine investigators during accident reconstruction. However, it can also be highly valuable to vessel owners and operators. Following an accident, VDR data can assist owners and operators evaluate the performance of shipboard personnel and vessel equipment, while also helping to determine causal factors related to an incident. This information can be essential for resolving damage claims arising from an accident. Periodic reviews of VDR data can also help detect unsafe practices and equipment problems before a marine casualty occurs.

The Coast Guard strongly recommends that owners and operators of vessels equipped with VDRs take the following actions:

  • Ensure deck officers understand VDR operation and know how to initiate the “Save Data” function immediately after an incident;
  • Employ a qualified service engineer to perform line-by-line functionality validation of all the required inputs, their storage, data coverage timeframe, and ability of this data to be properly played back with the appropriate equipment, operating systems and software available. The line-by-line validation of VDR inputs, data storage and quality of data may be achieved through a download of the data, analysis, and playback on appropriate equipment. The service provider should also check and inspect all batteries, enclosures, location aid devices, and power supplies with their associated alarms in accordance with manufacturer instructions.
  • Implement a company policy to periodically test the VDR (in additional to the required annual certification) to ensure complete operation of the system; and
  • Incorporate the above recommendations in the vessel’s safety management system and maintenance record keeping systems.


For additional details, please view the entire safety alert.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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