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Friday, September 21, 2018

Vessel Data Recorders (VDR)/Transponders

Background

Fitting VDR’s to vessels has several advantages such as: establishing the cause of accident; reducing legal issues; protecting whose who comply with the rules and regulations, acting as a restraint and also acting as a training tool.

However in the case of tankers most of these advantages are not that important since tankers as a rule tend not to disappear.  The total loss of tankers (which is the type of accident when most of the VDRs' qualities are an advantage), is extremely low.

LMIS data on casualties over the 1990s indicates that there is only one tanker in every 1,000 that may suffer a structural total loses. General shipping, (other than tankers) is three to fours times more at risk than tankers.

The majority of accidental pollution from tankers is still due to collision and groundings. Accordingly, transponders would thus be a very good tool for accident avoidance, particularly if coupled up with VTS, and moreover if coupled up with a shore transponder fitted with a recording device. The purpose of VTS is to prevent accidents, not simply to monitor them when they occur.

As far as the economics of fitting VDRs are concerned, the clean up cost and cost to restore the environment is very high, and thus accident prevention has to be better than accident investigation after the event, at least from a tanker operator's perspective.  Accident prevention is the backbone of STCW, Class, Solas, ISM procedures, Flag State Administration, and all the other regulatory systems and bodies that exist today.

INTERTANKO’s policy

INTERTANKO fully supports the use of VDRs on newbuildings, including tankers, however has reservations when it comes to the cost-effectiveness of retrofitting these devices in existing tankers.

INTERTANKO fully supports the fitting transponders to all vessels.   INTERTANKO’s position is that these carry all the information needed by a port state to undertake any accident investigation and/or corrective action that may be required. Therefore, the fitting of VDRs to existing tankers is simply a duplication. IMO has clearly identified that VDR efficiency could vary from one type of vessel to another, based on the VDR's own qualities. In addition there are recovery difficulties of the VDR, particularly when associated with a catastrophic loss of a vessel.  With the recording device ashore, (via a shore transponder), then the recovery difficulties are negated.