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Voyage data recorders (VDR) collect, process and store shipboard sensor data to give valuable insights in the aftermath of an incident in the marine environment. They are basically black boxes for the maritime industry, designed to determine the cause of a marine accidents and aid in prevention.

VDRs and S-VDRs are affixed to all ships with 3000 gross tons or more constructed on or after July 1, 2002. A VDR/SVDR is a digital storage medium that is not tamperproof enclosed in a capsule capable of enduring the pressures and shocks that come to a marine event such as collision, fire or sinking.

The system is designed for collecting information from a variety of sensors on board a ship before digitizing and compressing it before storing it into the form of a secure storage unit, which is mounted externally. The tamperproof box is designed to withstand the most severe heat, shock and impact, as well as pressures that can be encountered during a maritime accident, for example, a collision or a fire.

Members may wish to consider upgrading their VDR/S-VDR systems in order to allow them to store data over longer durations. In the moment, IMO performance standards only require that VDR/SVDRs keep data for 12 hours following an incident.

A growing number of manufacturers now offer a 'MantaDigital’ S-VDR, which can be accessed remotely in the same way that airlines’ FDR data is analyzed after an incident. This allows for remote diagnosis of technical issues onboard and allows for implement proactive maintenance procedures. Regular shoreside playbacks assist bridge teams in analyzing patterns in their performance and identifying areas for improvement.