TSB: Insufficient maintenance led to sinking of BC tugboat

M15p0037 Appendix D 02

The following is the text of a news release from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB):

(RICHMOND, British Columbia) — In its investigation report M15P0037, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada determined that a lack of adequate maintenance led to the March 18, 2015 sinking of the tug Syringa north of Merry Island, British Columbia. The tug had been towing the barge Matcon 1 (which was released before the sinking) when it took on water and sank. The two crewmembers swam ashore and were later picked up by the Canadian Coast Guard. A small quantity of diesel fuel was released from the tug after it sank, and the barge was later recovered by another tug.

The investigation determined that the tug sank because it was not maintained sufficiently to prevent downflooding into the hull during the voyage. Further, a lack of a functioning high-level bilge alarm deprived the crew of an early warning of water ingress.

The investigation also identified a number of issues related to emergency preparedness: the master had not been provided with procedures for the safe operation of the vessel or for dealing with emergencies; the crewmembers had not participated in emergency drills; the life jackets and exposure suits were stowed in a location not easily accessible; and the life raft had not undergone its mandatory annual servicing in 2014.

Effective safety management requires organizations to identify and manage risks associated with their operations, but Syringa was not required by regulation to have a formal safety management system (SMS). The TSB has identified safety management and oversight as a Watchlist issue. The TSB is calling on Transport Canada (TC) to implement regulations requiring all operators in the marine industries to have formal safety management processes and TC must oversee these companies’ safety management processes.

Additionally, TC is currently not required to inspect or issue inspection certificates to tugs less than 15 of gross tonnage (GT), and these vessels are not required to operate under an SMS. The onus is on the authorized representative (AR) to ensure compliance with the regulations, and there is minimal regulatory oversight to identify shortcomings in the event ARs are not fulfilling their responsibilities. The board is concerned that, without adequate oversight by TC, shortcomings in the safety management and operation of tugs less than 15 GT may not be addressed. The board will continue to monitor this situation with a view to assessing the need for further safety action on this issue.

Click here to read to the complete report.

By Professional Mariner Staff