Recently major maritime accidents have resulted in heavy loss of human lives and severe environmental and economic damage, thus demanding the use of an on-board voyage data recording system covering ship performance, navigation and operation. This will allow the collection of essential data as to the circumstances and origin of the accident, thereby facilitating its reconstitution. The introduction of the maritime black box should therefore lessen the risks of accidents through a better knowledge of accident origins, improve the education and training of seafarers, improve passenger safety, reduce costs of accident compensation, and speed up the resolution of related disputes.
MBB aimed to develop and demonstrate a standardised maritime voyage data recording system similar to black box systems employed in the aviation sector.
The main objectives of MBB have been:
- to provide maritime authorities with equipment that can be used to gain knowledge on accident situations, in order to understand them better and ultimately to take the appropriate preventive and regulatory measures;
- to produce the requirement specifications for a voyage data recording system;
- to propose a legal framework for the implementation and exploitation of the black box;
- to validate these proposals by means of a demonstrator and on-site experimentation for the new maritime black box technology.
- produced an inventory of international accident statistics, contributory factors, causal chains and the performance requirements for maritime voyage data recorders;
- defined a modular maritime black box concept encompassing
- a shipborne recording unit (RSU),
- an accident parameter acquisition unit (APAU), and
- land-based evaluation software for recovery and interpretation of recorded data (REU);
- build the prototype of a maritime black box from off-the-shelf hardware and software components;
- defined simulation and evaluation scenarios for the demonstrator, based on data from a severe passenger ferry accident back in 1990;
- performed sea trials on a medium-size Norwegian passenger liner, the M/S Konig Harald, in regular service on the Coastal Express Route between Bergen and Kirkenes, underlining the operational suitability and robustness of the prototype;
- defined testing standards for voyage data recording devices, based on the laboratory tests and sea trials;
- elaborated a legal framework for the implementation of the concept, including the analysis of unresolved questions such as certification and periodic inspection.
The MBB project laid the groundwork for the mandatory equipping of commercial vessels with voyage data recording systems. Further actions to provide a series production maritime black box will have to focus on technical compliance with international standards (e.g. IEC specifications), the IMO resolution on voyage data recording systems, and legal aspects covered by national administrations, authorities and flag states.