Tougher safety regime for ferries delayed until 2002

Last week’s European Union directive that roll-on/roll-off ferries must carry data-recording ‘black boxes’ and undergo tougher safety checks will not come into effect until 2002, the Government admitted this week. The directive, drafted following the sinking of the ro-ro ferry Estonia with the loss of 852 lives in 1994, covers ferries of all flags on […]

Last week’s European Union directive that roll-on/roll-off ferries must carry data-recording ‘black boxes’ and undergo tougher safety checks will not come into effect until 2002, the Government admitted this week.

The directive, drafted following the sinking of the ro-ro ferry Estonia with the loss of 852 lives in 1994, covers ferries of all flags on international and domestic services within Europe.

Ro-ro passenger ferries and high-speed craft will have to carry a voyage data recorder (VDR), similar to aircraft black boxes. This foreshadows an expected ruling by the International Maritime Organisation.

The VDR requirement will only take effect 30 months after publication of the International Electro-technical Commission’s standard 61996. Given that the IEC standard is not likely to be published until mid-1999, the requirement would not become EU law before early 2002.

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions this week explained the delay to publication of the VDR standard by saying: ‘These things take some time to draw up. The reason it takes so long is that you have to get international agreement from all the IEC members.’

The IEC standard must also comply with last November’s IMO testing standards.

This week British Maritime Technology said it was working with several shipowners to interface the widely used Rembrandt manoeuvring simulator with ship ‘black boxes’.

BMT said that because a VDR would be a fairly simple device, a key issue could be what other information systems it interfaced with.