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HomeMaritime DisastersBaltimore Bridge collapse - NTSB provides VDR information from Dali

Baltimore Bridge collapse – NTSB provides VDR information from Dali

As we know, the National Transportation Safety Board of the USA has been investigating the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, Baltimore after being struck by Dali, a 116,851 tonne, 9,971 TEU container ship on the 26th of March 2024.

The NTSB has released information from the Dali’s Voyage Data Recorder (VDR) that outlines what transpired aboard the vessel.

VDR information from the Dali

As per the VDR, the ship departed Seagrit Terminal around 00:39 hrs. At around 01:24 hrs there was a brief stoppage in the recording of the ship’s data which resumed after 2 minutes with the record indicating some steering commands and orders regarding the rudder.

Soon after this, the ship’s pilot is reported to have made a general very high frequency (VHF) radio call for tugboats nearby to assist the vessel.

At around 01:27 hrs, the pilot ordered the ship’s port anchor to be dropped and issued additional steering commands and reporting that the vessel had lost all power and was approaching the bridge.

It is understood that around this same time, the transit authority officers advised transit units to close traffic on the bridge based on which all lanes were then shut down. This action by the MDTA has been credited with saving many lives that would have otherwise been on the bridge.

The VDR data recorded sounds of the ship crashing into the bridge at around 01:29 hrs and as per the information recorded, the ship was traveling at a speed of around 8 miles/hour (6.95 nautical miles/hr or 12.8 km/hr).

At the moment of the collapse, the Dali had 21 crew and 2 pilots on board. As per US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath, there were no issues reported about the ship before it arrived in Baltimore and they “were informed that they were going to conduct routine engine maintenance on it while it was in port. And that’s the only thing we were informed about the vessel in that regard“.

As per the video and information, it is understood that several containers stowed on the bow of the ship have been damaged including some hazardous containers.

It is widely expected that various parties affected by the incident including shippers, receivers, families of the deceased and injured, the bridge authorities, and port authorities will be looking towards their insurance companies for some relief.

It is understood that the Dali is covered by the Britannia P&I Club who are expected to be fielding most of these queries from affected parties or their legal representatives.

What is a Voyage Data Recorder (VDR)

Image of a Voyage Data Recorder (not from Dali) - for representation purposes only

Regulation 20 contained in Chapter V on Safety of Navigation of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 (SOLAS) by the IMO, mandates that passenger ships and ships other than passenger ships of 3000 gross tonnage and upwards constructed on or after 1 July 2002 must carry voyage data recorders (VDRs) to assist in accident investigations. These regulations were adopted in 2000 and enacted on 1 July 2002.

Like the better-known black box on an aircraft, VDRs enable accident investigators to help identify the cause of any accident and enable them to review procedures and instructions in the moments before an incident.

As per, Wärtsilä, “VDR is usually two-part system consisting of a data collecting unit, and a protected storage unit that stores the retrieved data. The main component of the system is carried inside the ship and is connected to a deck-mounted protective capsule which houses a fixed high-capacity solid state memory block. The capsule is designed to withstand fire, deepsea pressure, shock and penetration.

The data collecting unit continuously records 12 hours of onboard activity including date and time; ship position; speed; heading; bridge audio; ship VHF communications relating to operations; radar information showing actual radar picture at the time of recording; depth under keel; rudder angle; engine order and response; hull opening status; watertight and fire doors status; hull stress monitoring and wind speed and direction.

Image of a Voyage Data Recorder (not from Dali) from IMO – for representation purposes onlyAs per NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy even though Dali had a relatively new VDR model the contents of a ship’s VDR is much less complete than that of an aircraft black box.

As per Homendy, the NTSB has been requesting for more data and information to be recorded in the VDR for long.

As per Homendy, while the data from the VDR is consistent with a power outage, it does not confirm a power outage.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting. The pilot did what he was expected to do. Anchors won’t slow down in a timely fashion a ship this heavy. In fact the anchors could be ripped away from the ship. It also depends on what the characteristics of the botton. Hard rock, mudd, or sand.

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