In the October issue of the Club's StopLoss Bulletin, it is noted that operation of VDR units is generally well understood, but that Masters of entered ships often fail to save VDR data where it could be used in defence of a claim.
Voice traffic on VHF and on the bridge is singled out as particularly important, and the Club cites two incidents where it may have helped clarify the chain of events.
The first involved the collision of two ships, resulting in a considerable claim on the Club. It is presumed the Master of the vessel involved did not save the VDR data as VHF voice traffic leading up to the incident may have incriminated him.
However, the Club reports that he may have exposed the shipowners to a larger settlement through his attempt to protect himself.
The second incident involved a container ship that was forced to depart her berth prematurely due to poor weather conditions. As a result, lashings for many of the containers were not secured, and a number of containers were lost overboard.
The Master did not deem the VDR data pertinent to the incident and, as such, did not save it. But in the ensuing enquiry, the Club felt that communication between the bridge and the port authorities could have shed light on the circumstances leading up to the incident, greatly helping with claim negotiations.
In light of incidents such as these, the London P&I Club is urging its Members to add a ‘VDR save’ as a low-priority action to be carried out in an emergency, as laid out in ships’ onboard Emergency Guidance Manuals.