Local expert says collisions between boats and float planes unlikely in Victoria’s Inner Harbour

Local expert says collisions between boats and float planes unlikely in Victoria's Inner Harbour
Victoria's Inner Harbour is pictured.

While some may have safety concerns about traffic in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, a local transportation safety expert believes it’s unlikely a float plane will collide with a vessel in the area.

Safety concerns were sparked after a collision near Vancouver over the weekend.

On Saturday, a Harbour Air float plane collided with a boat in Vancouver’s Coal Harbour, just east of Stanley Park.

Harbour Air says all five passengers on board, as well as the pilot, are uninjured.

Vancouver Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Walter Pereira says four people were onboard the boat at the time of the crash. Two were seriously injured and transported to hospital, the other two were uninjured.

READ MORE: Harbour Air float plane crashes into boat in Vancouver near Stanley Park

“Obviously an unfortunate accident, and I emphasis the word accident because if either operator had seen the collision, they would have taken evasive action,” said Bill Yearwood, retired Transportation Safety Board (TSB) regional manager of aviation accidents.

Yearwood told CHEK News while this was a devastating incident, he believes it’s unlikely something similar would happen in Victoria’s harbour.

“They have laid out some very specific guidelines, which is necessary here because the harbour is quite confined in this area,” he said.

Transport Canada has very defined laneways dedicated to Harbour Air’s take-off and landing zones where boats are not allowed to cross.

Mark Malleson, senior zodiac skipper with Prince of Whales, said several other safety precautions are in place to reduce the risk of collisions, including Transport Canada monitoring and reduced speeds in the waterways.

“We have a speed limit,” Malleson said. “It’s five knots in the inner harbour, and then it’s seven knots in the outer harbour.”

Yearwood added Nav Canada provides service to the pilots, overseeing the traffic in and out of the harbour.

“The pilots have to communicate with the flight service station here, and the flight service station will advise of conflicting traffic,” Yearwood said.

The retired TSB regional manager added collisions between float planes and vessels are uncommon.

According to Transport Canada, 11 rejected take-offs or aborted landings have occurred in Victoria’s harbour since 2000 because of vessel traffic in the take-off and landing areas.

The last reported incident was in 2017.

“It seems quite controlled,” Malleson said. “I’ve been working in here for almost 30 years, and, touch on wood, I’ve never seen any real close calls with planes.”

In a statement, the TSB said it is still investigating Saturday’s collision in Coal Harbour.

“The investigation remains in its preliminary stages,” the statement reads. “The investigation team is still collaborating with various agencies, including the Vancouver Police Department and the aircraft recovery team, to gather all relevant information and determine the circumstances surrounding the accident.”

TSB adds it will provide updates as soon as more information becomes available.

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