TSB: Sunken forestry barge had not been inspected by regulators

A lack of safety oversight contributed to the foundering and abandonment of a self-propelled barge in British Columbia last year, Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has determined. 

Lasqueti Daughters was declared a constructive total loss as a result of the incident near Campbell River on March 14, 2015. Investigators said the vessel’s main deck was not watertight and downflooded in rough seas. 

The probe determined that the 76-foot homemade vessel did not hold the required Transport Canada (TC) inspection certificate, nor was there any inspection or verification by TC of the vessel’s condition. As such, there was no opportunity to identify and address safety deficiencies. The vessel was not operating under a safety management system (SMS), nor was it required to.

The TSB used the incident to emphasize that national and provincial agencies overseeing maritime and occupational safety need to cooperate better to detect unsafe conditions such as this vessel, which was involved in forestry work. 

“If organizations with overlapping areas of responsibility do not share information and collaborate effectively among themselves as well as with vessel owners and masters, then there is a risk that gaps in safety oversight will occur,” the agency wrote. 

“If comprehensive surveys or mandatory inspections are not conducted, critical areas of a vessel may go uninspected, and masters and owners will have incomplete information about the condition and safety of their vessels, increasing the risk of accidents,” the report said. 

Lasqueti Daughters was en route from Campbell River on Vancouver Island to engage in silviculture operations with 17 people and numerous pieces of equipment on board. It encountered deteriorating sea and wind conditions. Water began accumulating on board via the spaces between the bow ramp, bulwarks and main deck, and then downflooded into the forward storage compartment. 

Fifteen silviculture workers abandoned Lasqueti Daughters to a 12-passenger workboat that was being towed. When the larger vessel finally foundered, the master and the owner’s authorized representative (AR) abandoned to a skiff before being picked up by a water taxi from Campbell River.

Lasqueti Daughters was a homemade shallow-draft self-propelled wooden vessel with a steel bow ramp, constructed in 2001 on Lasqueti Island, British Columbia. The vessel was not designed with the use of a lines plan, nor was it constructed with the use of drawings. The vessel was never inspected during construction, assessed for stability or registered with TC after construction. 

Owned by Impact Reforestation, the boat was primarily used to transport equipment and workers and served as a live-aboard camp during silviculture operations.

TSB determined that the weather conditions encountered by Lasqueti Daughters resulted in water being shipped onto the main deck via the spaces between the bow ramp, bulwarks and main deck. The main deck, which had recently been partially replaced, was not watertight and allowed water to downflood into the forward storage compartment.

As the vessel was trimmed by the bow, and as the freeing ports were located on the aft portion of the main deck, water began to pool at the base of the bow ramp.

Attempts to pump out the storage compartments using the onboard pumps failed because the emergency pump did not pump water, likely due to an air lock. The remaining pumps could not keep up with the ingress of water. Water continued to enter the forward storage compartment and transfer progressively through all the bulkheads, causing the vessel to begin foundering.

The agency pointed out that safety oversight of silviculture operations, including marine transportation associated with these operations, is a shared responsibility. 

“In addition to collaborating with vessel owners, ARs and masters, the federal and provincial organizations involved in safety oversight — TC, BCFSC (British Columbia Forest Safety Council) and WorkSafeBC — could collaborate more actively and effectively with each other,” the report stated.

Impact Reforestation had previously been found in violation of Transport Canada regulations.

In April 2012, Lasqueti Daughters lost its anchor in a windstorm and was intentionally beached onto a rock wall in Fife Sound, British Columbia. The master, foreman and one other person remained on board, and 14 workers were removed and transferred to the Canadian Coast Guard search-and-rescue lifeboat Cape Sutil. A detailed incident report was completed in accordance with the company’s shoreside occupational health and safety program. The report indicated that the high water bilge alarms did not appear to be working.

Transport Canada’s investigation of the occurrence revealed that Lasqueti Daughters had been operating without being registered or holding an inspection certificate. It revealed that the master was employed on board in a position for which a certificate of competency was required, but did not hold such a certificate. A deficiency notice was issued to the owner, followed by a notice of violation. The owner’s authorized representative subsequently registered the vessel with TC.

Shortly after the March 2015 incident, Greg Kingston, president of Impact Reforestation, told Professional Mariner that he declined to be interviewed, stating that he preferred to “put the incident behind us and move on.”

Following the release of the recent TSB report, Impact Reforestation did not return calls for comment.

By Professional Mariner Staff