Fouled prop, mechanical breakdown send BC ferry crashing into dock, injuring seven

Seven people were injured when a British Columbia ferry slammed into its berth on Mayne Island. The operator said rope was found wrapped around a propeller, and mechanical failure may have resulted.

The 391-foot Queen of Nanaimo, with 200 passengers on board, slammed into the ferry terminal at Village Bay at 0730 on Aug. 3.

The 4,939-gross-ton vessel had slowed from its normal 16.5-knot traveling speed to 5 knots when the captain was unable to stop the vessel at the terminal. The vessel subsequently made a “hard landing,†operator BC Ferries said in a statement.

During inspection following the incident, engineers detected the failure of two six-inch steel dowels on the oil distribution box on the port shaft. BC Ferries determined that it was this failure that caused the propeller system to fail to respond to the captain’s commands.

In addition, about 200 feet of rope from a crab trap was found wrapped around the port propeller. Deborah Marshall, spokeswoman for BC Ferries, said that fouling could have been a contributing factor to the steel dowel failure in the oil distribution box.

This is not the first time BC Ferries has experienced problems with ropes from crab traps.

“We had quite a problem a year ago with the Northern Adventure,†Marshall told Professional Mariner. Northern Adventure sails between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert and Prince Rupert and Skidegate on Haida Gwaii. In August 2009, that vessel was out of service for two days after seven crab lines and buoys fouled the twin props. BC Ferries said the crab traps should not have been set along the ferry route.

One crewmember and four passengers were injured in the Queen of Nanaimo collision. They were attended to by emergency medical personnel. BC Ferries declined to comment on the extent of the injuries, for privacy reasons. The ferry was on its regular route serving Tsawwassen and the Southern Gulf Islands when the accident happened.

Queen of Nanaimo sustained damage to the rubbing strake and bow door frame. The terminal had damage to the wing walls, which are part of the berthing structure, as well as to the ramp apron. The Village Bay terminal, which has two berths, was able to remain open.

Transport Canada didn’t respond to a request for additional details on the ferry accident. The investigation is continuing.

Queen of Nanaimo was taken out of service for repairs and returned to service Aug. 6.

Michel Drouin

By Professional Mariner Staff