Transport Canada says it will not be approving the BC Coroners Service recommendation for mandatory life-jackets for passengers on large commercial vessels that came after an investigation into the fatal capsizing of a whale-watching vessel in 2015.
The investigation started after the Leviathan II, owned by Jamie’s Whaling Station, capsized off the coast of Tofino on Oct. 25, 2015. Six people were killed.
Investigating coroner Courtenay Cote classified the drowning deaths of the five Britons and one Australian as accidental.
Cote recommended Transport Canada require lifejackets be worn by all passengers on the outer decks of vessels greater than 15 gross tons (GT) carrying more than 12 passengers.
The coroner also suggested a review of regulations for emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRB) and consider expanding the class of vessels required to carry the devices.
In a letter to B.C. chief coroner Lisa Lapointe, dated Feb. 2, 2018, the associate deputy minister with Transport Canada said the department cannot support the “broad scope of the recommendation as there are underlying impacts on certain categories of vessel and their operations.”
Thao Pham wrote that Transport Canada supports the wearing of lifejackets in general and also supports efforts to encourage more options for wearable designs of life-jackets and personal flotation devices.
He also wrote that Transport Canada consults with the Canadian Marine Advisory Council to discuss the feasibility of life-jacket recommendations and said a number of factors may have an impact on whether the coroner’s recommendation can be applied. These factors include vessel size and operational environment.
Pham said the recommendation may be feasible for small passenger vessels over 15 GT where passengers spend the entire trip on the outer deck but may not be appropriate for larger vessels, for example, ferries and larger tour boats, where passengers move inside and outside the boat.
“Wearing a life-jacket when inside a vessel presents serious safety risks and, on some vessels, it is not practicable for passengers to remove and store the life-jacket each time they go into an enclosed area,” Pham said in the letter.
The letter also noted that after the capsizing, Jamie’s Whaling Station started requiring passengers to wear personal flotation devices during all vessel activities.
As for the other recommendation for a review of regulations for EPIRB, Pham said Transport Canada has already developed a regulatory proposal.