The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has determined informal practices helped contribute to an emergency drill accident on the Spirit of Vancouver Island ferry in 2018.
In it’s investigation report, the TSB said it was a combination of inadequate risk assessment, informal practices, and insufficient supervision that led to two crew members falling overboard during the drill out at the Swartz Bay Terminal.
The two crew members fell off one of the vessel’s rescue boats as it was being released. Both crew members were transported to hospital after being rescued, but neither sustained any major injuries.
According to the investigation by the TSB, the organization has determined the Spirit of Vancouver Island’s rescue boats had been replaced with ones that were bigger than the originals, however the existing devices to deploy the boats were not changed. The bigger boats had resulted in the brake release line being out of adjustment and, having encountered issues with the brake line in previous drills, the crew had adopted an informal practice to compensate, according to the TSB.
The TSB also revealed in their report that the chief officer was not available to supervise the drill due to a high workload. The supervising duties were passed along to the coxswain operating the rescue boat in the drill, but his attention was divided with supervising and his own procedures.
Without the chief officer’s supervision, the informal practice of compensating for the brake release line caused the line to snag during the deployment of the rescue boat.
The investigation suggests the tension that resulted from the snag caused the brake line to release. The rescue boat dropped suddenly, hit the edge of the deck, and tipped outboard—resulting in both crew members falling into the water.
BC Ferries made a number of changes to policies and procedures related to rescue boat operations following the emergency drill accident.