Your Questions Answered: Does The TS Kennedy Carry A Black Box Like An Airplane?

question mark

We received a great question from one of the high school classes participating in the Follow The Voyage-Share The Experience Program:

Does the TS Kennedy carry a black box like an airplane?

A black box is the name given to a flight data recorder that is carried on every airplane and helicopter in the sky.  It records the last two hours of conversations in the cockpit and maintains data from the aircrafts last twenty-five hours.  In the event of an accident, the flight data recorder provides investigators with valuable information that will help to improve the safety of air travel.

A ship carries a safety device superior to a black box.  It is called the Voyage Data Recorder (VDR).  Aboard the TS Kennedy, this bright orange cylinder can be found above the Bridge Deck secured to the deck in a metal cade.  The bold words, “VOYAGE DATA RECORDER, DO NOT OPEN, REPORT TO AUTHORITIES, SPERRY MARINE” are visible on the cylinder.

This is the TS Kennedy's VDR.

After a ship collision in New York Harbor in 1973, the United State National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) began investigating the possibility of including VDRs on ships. 

A series of microphones embedded in the ceiling record all conversations inside on the ship’s Bridge and outside on the Bridge wings.  The recordings are sent to the VDR.  The VDR is constantly updating and overwriting, maintaining the voice recordings for the last twelve hours of the voyage. 

The VDR monitors and stores other vital information real-time including, but not limited to:

A. date and time
B. speed
C. position
D. radio communication
E. RADAR data
F. electronic chart display
G. echo sounder information
H. rudder and helm orders
I.   wind speed and direction
J.  alarms

Every fifteen seconds, the VDR records electronic chart information.

diagram of how VDR works
This diagram shows how the data reaches the VDR.

In the event of an accident, a grounding, or an extreme weather event, the information contained in the VDR would prove critical to the resulting investigations.   The data collected by the VDR can also be used for training purposes.

Collectively, it is information gathered from the VDRs on ships around the world that helps to improve the safety of ocean travel.

Please keep your questions coming!