Inside the investigation bureau in Singapore that examines data from a ‘black box’ after a plane crash

Inside the investigation bureau in Singapore that examines data from a 'black box' after a plane crash


While its aviation division is the most established, TSIB is also responsible for the investigation of marine and rail accidents and incidents. 

It began as the Air Accident Investigation Bureau in 2002, prior to being renamed TSIB after expanding its scope to include marine investigations in 2016. Rail investigations were subsequently added in 2020.

Senior marine safety investigator Xiao Shouhai said marine incidents could happen out at sea, at a port or terminal; during navigation, cargo operations, bunkering or maintenance.

Explaining the possible challenges of investigating marine incidents, Mr Xiao said sometimes survivors could be in hospitals in “different places”. The seafarers on the ship also often come from many different nations, and only stay on the ship for a few months. This could make it difficult to conduct interviews. 

In rail investigations, “the railway system is a system within a system”, added Mr Gilbert Low, a rail safety investigator. 

“You have the track, the train, the signal. It’s a challenge to understand how each system affects one another and how to correlate the information and data,” he said. 

“We also might see, in a massive railway incident, there is massive disruption. (With) information gathering and evidence collection, the time is against us. It’s about how we do it efficiently and properly to collect the perishable evidence, with the aim to resume the service and lessen disruption.”

Unlike aviation incidents where the usage of a flight recorder is more specific to investigations, data logged in the train recorder is used primarily for maintenance purposes. Its recorder also has “crash protected memory”, and is able to withstand shock and heat from a fire, added Mr Low.