A “man overboard” safety drill that ironically resulted in two BC Ferries employees injured and in the sea for real was the subject of a released safety report, Monday.
On April 18, 2018, the Queen of Cumberland ferry was in Swartz Bay with 10 crew members aboard, including the senior master and senior chief engineer. They were there as part of the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) surveyors’ annual inspection to see if the ship should have its safety inspection certificate renewed.
As part of a rescue drill, simulating a “man overboard” scenario, a rescue boat was lowered into the water and performed a mock rescue. At approximately 12:49 p.m., once it was back alongside the ship, the boat was hoisted into the air when a crew member noticed a hook was fastened incorrectly to the bridle on the davit lifting equipment. The boat was lowered slowly into the water and the equipment rectified. However, on the second attempt at hoisting the boat into the air, the lifting cable parted causing the boat to plummet 11 metres, from Deck 5, into the water. Two crew members on the boat were injured, one seriously. Three life rings were thrown into the water and a rescue boat from the Skeena Queen was scrambled. The crew members were tended to by BC Ferries and BC Ambulance paramedics before being taken to hospital.
The rescue boat that fell suffered damage to its acrylic wind screen. Additionally, the davit sustained damage to the cable keeper and the sheave flange on one side.
In the Marine Transportation Safety Investigation Report, inspectors found, “that the rescue boat painter (rope) was not secured with sufficient working length, thus exerting a force on the rescue boat and cable as it was being raised. The resulting side load caused the hoist cable to get pinched and break, resulting in the boat falling into the water along with the two crew members.”
The Queen of Cumberland was upgraded in 2016 and the rescue davit was changed. Since then, it was found that the davit’s limit switch had been rigged incorrectly and this error had not been identified in BC Ferries inspections in the time that followed. The report notes that “corresponding updates to operation and maintenance procedures were not made and that, although BC Ferries identified some of the missing updates, others went unidentified and unresolved.”
The authors of the report say that if equipment changes, training and maintenance programs aboard ships are not managed effectively, accidents can occur.
On Aug. 31, 2018, BC Ferries suffered another incident with a rescue boat on board the Spirit of Vancouver Island. As a result, the company reinstated an “Emergency Use Only” restriction for all davits and rescue/work boat combinations. Now, no employees are allowed to be in boats when they are lowered or raised, unless in an emergency.