Crew rescued after two tugs collide, one sinks near Vancouver Island

Two tugboats en route to Nanaimo, British Columbia, collided after the larger tug unexpectedly turned into the smaller vessel, which then capsized and sank.

The collision threw both crewmen on the smaller tug, Albern, into the Northumberland Channel between Vancouver and Gabriola islands. The crew from the larger tug, C.T. Titan, retrieved the two men from the water and carried them back to shore.

Canadian authorities are investigating the incident, which occurred at about 1745 on May 24. Investigators declined to comment on a possible cause, citing the ongoing investigation.

“We have information we are sifting through to see what could have happened at the time of collision and why the vessel suddenly turned to port,” Mohan Raman, Pacific region manager for the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, said in an interview.

Jones Marine Group of Chemainus, British Columbia, owns the two tugboats, which are 54 and 15 gross tons, Raman said. Additional details about the vessels were not available. Company President Daryl Jones did not return phone or email messages seeking comment.

C.T. Titan and Albern were working in the log booming grounds around Gabriola and Nanaimo on the day of the accident. There, giant log rafts containing hundreds of felled trees are tied together for transit.

The tugs were heading back to Nanaimo for a crew change when the collision occurred. Raman said both were traveling on a similar heading when C.T. Titan suddenly turned to port. C.T. Titan was traveling about 8 knots and Albern was making about 5 knots.

Titan struck Albern on the starboard side, slightly aft. The tug sank in a matter of minutes off Gabriola Island in 300 feet of water. Canadian officials aren’t sure if the vessel will be raised.

Albern was carrying about 210 gallons of diesel when it sank, along with lubricants and other oil products. Authorities believe the fuel escaped the tanks, and a sheen appeared on the water’s surface.

Investigators have interviewed crew aboard both tugs and gathered evidence about the incident, Raman said. 

C.T. Titan sustained hull damage from the collision. After the accident, it was taken to a shipyard in nearby Richmond, British Columbia, for repairs.

By Professional Mariner Staff