Safety Board says BC ferry travelling too fast, failed to respond to commands in 2020 terminal crash

Safety Board says BC ferry travelling too fast, failed to respond to commands in 2020 terminal crash
File Photo
An image captured following the crash in April 2020.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has wrapped up an investigation into the BC Ferries regarding an incident where a vessel collided with a dock last spring.

Following the conclusion of the investigation, the TSB has released a report that suggests the vessel was travelling at speeds higher than recommended and the ship failed to respond when the crew tried to prevent the crash, that occurred in April 2020.

The safety report, released on Thursday, Feb. 11, states that when the master of the Spirit of Vancouver Island ordered the helmsman to steer hard to avoid the crash, the ferry didn’t respond.

“The vessel did not respond to the helm order, even after the ahead thrust on the port engine was increased, and the vessel continued moving forward towards the wall of berth 3,” reads a statement from the TSB report.

Vessel’s speed and pitch (both actual and recommended) on approach to the berth (Source: Google Earth, with TSB annotations)

As for speed, the general practice by BC Ferries is that speeds shouldn’t surpass 6 knots when passing the outer dolphin. During this instance, the vessel was moving at approximately 6.2 knots.

In the final moments before the crash, the master ordered both anchors released as an additional safety measure, however the report outlines that neither one released properly.

“The chief officer pressed the remote release button and, approximately 4 seconds later, reported that the port anchor was not releasing. He was subsequently instructed to release both anchors. He pressed the remote release buttons for both anchors, but neither anchor released,” the report reads.

According to the TSB, it was later determined an issue with overtightening the anchor brakes may have affected their operation.

The report doesn’t say why the ship didn’t respond to efforts to prevent the hard-hit as it came into the Tsawwassen terminal last April, although it says bridge teams must stick to recommended speeds because high speeds can reduce the time to respond to a lack of control.

A couple of minutes prior to the ferry striking the dock, the report outlines that the ship’s master continued to approach the terminal “with all machinery components operating satisfactorily,” only to see the ferry moving in opposite direction to what was expected moments later.

The Transportation Safety Board report says that passengers weren’t warned about the impending strike as the ship was approaching the terminal.

Minor injuries were reported by two crew members and one passenger following the incident.

The safety board says BC Ferries enacted a number of safety measures after the incident, including updates to the vessel’s manual, a re-creation of the incident in a simulator and drills for crew members.

The ferry underwent a “mid-life upgrade” in 2019, the report says, including the renewal of propulsion components and installation of new machinery control, navigation, communication and safety evacuation systems.

Graham CoxGraham Cox

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