In the event of a marine casualty or accident, collection and analysis of the vessel’s VDR / SVDR data may provide evidence critical to a casualty investigation. In this context, IMO MSC/ Circ 1024 provides guidelines on the ownership and recovery of VDR / SVDR data.
he ship owner will, in all circumstances and at all times, own the VDR and its information. However, in the event of an accident the following guidelines would apply. The owner of the ship should make available and maintain all decoding instructions necessary to recover the recorded information.
Recovery of VDR and relevant information
Recovery of the VDR is conditional on the accessibility of the VDR or the information contained therein.
- Recovery of the VDR information should be undertaken as soon as possible after an accident to best preserve the relevant evidence for use by both the investigator and the ship owner. As the investigator is very unlikely to be in a position to instigate this action soon enough after the accident, the owner must be responsible, through its on-board standing orders, for ensuring the timely preservation of this evidence.
- In the case of abandonment of a vessel during an emergency, masters should, where time and other responsibilities permit, take the necessary steps to preserve the VDR information until it can be passed to the investigator.
- Where the VDR is inaccessible and the information has not been retrieved prior to abandonment, a decision will need to be taken by the flag State in co-operation with any other substantially interested States on the viability and cost of recovering the VDR balanced against the potential use of the information. If it is decided to recover the VDR the investigator should be responsible for co-ordinating its recovery. The possibility of the capsule having sustained damage must be considered and specialist expertise will be required to ensure the best chance of recovering and preserving the evidence. In addition, the assistance and co-operation of the owners, insurers and the manufacturers of the VDR and those of the protective capsule may be required.
Custody of VDR information
In all circumstances, during the course of an investigation, the investigator should have custody of the original VDR information in the same way that the investigator would have custody of other records or evidence under the Code for the Investigation of Marine Casualties and Incidents.
Read-out of VDR information
In all circumstances the investigator is responsible to arrange down loading and read-out of the information and should keep the ship owner fully informed. In some cases, the assistance of specialist expertise may be required.
Access to the VDR information
A copy of the VDR information must be provided to the ship owner at an early stage in all circumstances.
Further access to the information will be governed by the applicable domestic legislation of the flag State, coastal State and other substantially interested States as appropriate and the guidelines given in the Code for the Investigation of Marine Casualties and Incidents.
Any disclosure of VDR information should be in accordance with section 10 of the Code for the Investigation of Marine Casualties and Incidents.