Blue Puttees lists again

Barb Sweet
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MP Gerry Byrne wants federal investigation

The new Marine Atlantic ferry the Blue Puttees is shown docked at St. John’s harbour in this file photo. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Liberal MP Gerry Byrne wants an investigation by federal transportation regulators into recent incidents aboard the gulf ferry Blue Puttees.

“I’m taking it very, very seriously,” said the Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte MP.

“It seems to be the second incident in about a month.”

Byrne said he had contact from passengers who were aboard the Blue Puttees Friday night when it listed. One passenger said he was knocked out of bed.

Marine Atlantic spokeswoman Tara Laing confirmed Monday the vessel did list on the overnight crossing from North Sydney, N.S., to Port aux Basques, comparing it to unexpected turbulence on a flight.

She said there were three to four “fairly abrupt” rolls that lasted 25 seconds and confirmed one of two stabilizers on the outside of the vessel retracted.

One crew member was taken by ambulance to hospital in Port aux Basques after getting cut from glass broken during the list, Laing said. She also said passengers have been reporting slips and falls.

The ship was sailing in 16-knot winds and 30-foot waves.

“At no time was the vessel, from a safety point of view, in jeopardy,” Laing said.

She said an internal review will be done on the incident.

Byrne is now concerned that Marine Atlantic is downplaying problems with the vessel and said the Transportation Safety Board should step in to investigate both the February incident and Friday’s listing incident.

“At no time was the vessel, from a safety point of view, in jeopardy." Marine Atlantic spokeswoman Tara Laing

He said he’s concerned the Blue Puttees and its sister ship, the Highlanders, may have internal engineering and mechanical issues.

“There has to be an immediate and thorough investigation,” he said.

“That can only be done at this point in time by the national transportation safety regulator.”


Rumours of rocking and rolling

On Feb. 9, the ship was also reported to have listed outside St. John’s harbour and rumours spread it almost sank on its way to being christened by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

But Marine Atlantic described the roll as minor and said the ship listed less than 15 degrees in high winds and 12-foot waves.

“Was the incident outside St. John’s Harbour as minor and unremarkable as Marine Atlantic first told us?” Byrne asked Monday.

The Blue Puttees suffered some minor malfunctions during sea tests in Europe, but Marine Atlantic also described them as minor.

Some of the problem was attributed to the stabilizer, but Marine Atlantic said it was fixed.

Byrne also wants Marine Atlantic to reveal engineering studies on the Blue Puttees and whether it was deemed in those engineering studies to be the appropriate class size and configuration for the run.

Organizations: Marine Atlantic, Safety Board

Geographic location: Port aux Basques, North Sydney, Europe

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Recent comments

  • kevin
    March 22, 2011 - 17:44

    When you cut the stern of a ship off and shorten it it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out you're going to have stability problems. Maybe buying larger ships is the answer but not when you shorten them and they have to enter the channel at port aux basque . Invest money in a new port.where wind above 45 knots stops a ferry from entering the harbor. Let the ferries dock in Stephenville or Corner Brook. Thus cutting the 2 major problems out in high winds...The Wreckhouse and the channel at Port aux Basque.

  • Derek Murphy
    March 22, 2011 - 15:17

    The first time could have been called a freak accident or incident but when it happens twice its a pattern. If I'm not mistaken a consultant recommended that there be smaller vessels built in Canada for the Gulf Run than the ones we have leased from Stenna Shipping. All last fall the Atlantic Vision was repeatedly left in port because it was unsafe to cross the Cabot Strate due to high winds while the Erikson, Caribou and Smallwood were able to cross with little or no trouble. Does anyone else see the problem here... Big ships catch winds like big sails... small ships don't. Maybe its time for Harper to listen to people who know what they are talking about... the see faring people of Newfoundland & Labrador and not some educated fool who thionks bigger is better.

  • Steve
    March 22, 2011 - 14:39

    The unfortunate thing about this is we have already gone down this road before when Marine Atlantic leased ships from the Stena shipping company. Who will ever forget the Stena Nordica and Atlantica. They were brutal ships that were just not designed for our ferry crossing. I had severe reservations about all of this when they took two specifically engineered ships and simply cut them in two pieces took out what they did not require and welded them back together. I hope and pray for all of our sakes that nothing serious does happen. Why we should be all treated like proverbial guinea pigs is beyond me.

  • dis old man
    March 22, 2011 - 11:30

    Does Marine Atlantic remember that the Titanic was unsinkable too? That iceberg collision was also described as minor in nature.

  • glenn
    March 22, 2011 - 11:03

    i encourage evryone here to call Gerry Byrne as i did. and call open line everyday, until we get something done about this. I called open lin monday and tuesday mar 21st and 22nd about this issue. i was on the boat blue puttees friday night when the extreme list occured, if the cargo( trucks/cars) hadnt been lashed down i believe whole heartedly that we would have capsized and lost 90 to 100 percent of the people on borad, forget the vehicles and the ship, its the people i worry about. At 4 am i was thrown violently from my bunk, the ship was easily list 35 to 40 degrees, and the ship continued to roll significantly for the remainder of the voyage. The Caribou and Smallwod were designed for our gulf run, and they should have been replaced by modern clones of those ships, not these skinny tall ships tO BE CORRECTED.hat are prone to listin. PLEASE PLEASE CALL UR MP, MHA, WHOEVER YOU HAVE TO CALL.

  • DON
    March 22, 2011 - 10:47

    This is a very serious matter. Hundreds of lives are at stake here. Why did Marine Atlantic lease these used boats? Who benefited from that lease arrangement? I was of the opinion that these boats looked unstable and my fears have now been confirmed. Marine Atlantic should have entered into a contract with a Canadian ship builder to construct 4 new ferry boats which were specifically designed for use on the run between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. The Government of Canada never learns, it bought 4 used British submarines and have spent the worth of 4 new subs trying to fix the rust bucket subs they bought from the Brits. The Government of Canada and Marine Atlantic are penny wise and pound foolish or are just plain foolish! Get rid of these unstable boats fast and replace them with new properly engineered ferry boats within the next 10 years. The cost of that plan will pale in comparison if Marine Atlantic loses a fully loaded ferry boat because it allowed safety to be subordinated by an attempt at saving money. We print money every day to replace what is lost but we can't replace a human life once it is lost!

  • grant
    March 22, 2011 - 10:01

    I dont think its that big a problem, something like one wing folding up on a plane.

  • Rod Lyver
    March 22, 2011 - 08:36

    When will Newfoundland and Labrador be treated as an equal partner in Canada's confederation? As a people and a province we have given more than our fair share. The "scraps" that Ottawa throws our way with the indignity they send with it has made me realize that Ottawa considers our great province no more than a pimple on the arse of Canada. Even our MP Byrne's frustration and concerns are met with the same distain. Canada and the world have been well served by our resources to the benefit of big business up along with no real end in sight. Are a few new ships too much to ask for? I think not.

    • Thomas Freer
      March 22, 2011 - 19:36

      Get it fixed befor summer when it will be full better yet get the old boats back

  • wavy
    March 22, 2011 - 07:46

    Why do I find Tara Laing's response to be flippant and pandering? The only reason Laing can claim "at no time was the vessel in jeopardy" was simply because the ship didn't roll. This is a serious problem, but then when has Marine Atlantic ever taken responsibility for any of their missteps. I'd have every nut, bolt and rivet on that ship checked, from stem to stern, Tara or you'll be on the evening news explaining your previous comments to a judicial inquiry.

  • Andrew
    March 22, 2011 - 07:25

    FYI, the road to Sydney isn't paved, it's ocean.