TSB cites maintenance deficiencies, inadequate emergency procedures in ferry grounding

The following is a news release from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada:

(DARTMOUTH, Nova Scotia) (Jan. 29) — In its report released today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) found that maintenance deficiencies and lack of adequate emergency procedures led to the Nov. 7, 2013 loss of electrical power and grounding of the passenger ferry Princess of Acadia in Digby, Nova Scotia. There were no injuries or pollution reported.

The Princess of Acadia was approaching the ferry terminal at Digby, Nova Scotia, with 87 passengers and crew aboard. In preparation for docking, as the bow thruster was started, the main generator blacked out causing a loss of electrical power and disabling the main propeller pitch control pumps. Once the pitch control pumps stopped, the propeller thrust defaulted toward full astern while the engines were still running, causing the vessel to slow down, stop and travel backward toward the nearby shoreline until running aground.

The investigation found that a deteriorated generator component caused the failure of two main generators and the blackout of the main electrical switchboards, among other system failures. The investigation also identified that neither the bridge nor the engine room had effective procedures in place to respond to the blackout of the main switchboard. Because of this, the master was not informed that engine room personnel were having difficulty restoring power, and the engine room was not aware of the urgency of the situation. This impeded an effective response to the emergency. The vessel had voluntarily implemented a safety management system (SMS), but it did not provide the master with guidance to proactively identify risks or investigate hazardous occurrences.

There were also deficiencies with passenger-related duties in written evacuation procedures and with Transport Canada’s oversight to ensure compliance with regulations regarding passenger safety emergency procedures. As such, there is a risk that these procedures will not achieve their intended purpose. Previous marine investigations (M12C0058 and M13L0067) have found deficiencies in the oversight of passenger safety regulations.

Following the occurrence, Bay Ferries Ltd., the vessel operator, instituted improved operating procedures for when the vessel prepares to arrive at Digby. They have also installed a simplified voyage data recorder, which records bridge audio and information navigation equipment and other available sensors. Lloyd’s Register, the vessel classification society, has increased the frequency for generator breaker testing.

Click here to read the full report.

By Professional Mariner Staff