A provincial ferry which has been under repairs ever since a mechanical failure caused it to collide with a dock may return to service this weekend.
The MV Beaumont Hamel, which serves travellers going to and from Bell Island, damaged its visor on May 30 as a result of a collision with the Portugal Cove dock.
The incident, which was caused by a loss of reverse propulsion, happened days after the ferry passed an inspection following repairs to a leaky thruster seal.
On Friday, Transportation and Works Minister Tom Hedderson told reporters the ferry may return to service on Saturday or Sunday, depending on the outcome of a Transport Canada inspection and sea trials. Those sea trials were scheduled to take place yesterday and, if necessary, Saturday.
“If there are issues with the performance of the vessel, it will not return to service until these issues have been addressed,” said the minister.
It’s those “issues with performance” that have concerned some residents of Bell Island. People who spoke with The Telegram shortly after the incident said they could not understand how the vessel passed an inspection only days before the accident occurred.
Hedderson said repairs and upgrades to the vessel, totalling approximately $500,000, will hopefully address those concerns. Electrical breakers and fuel pumps were overhauled on the ship. Two new safety mechanisms were also installed — a monitoring system will inform the crew about electrical fluctuations if and when they occur, and an autostart system will activate another engine should engine failure occur.
The ship’s visor has also been repaired.
“There was some technical problems with the engines, and we feel that we have certainly put the repairs in place and the new additions that will ensure that type of incident won’t happen again,” said Hedderson.
“There were some concerns expressed about the safety ... and we’ve certainly made sure we’ve gone through all of the concerns of the residents and done what we thought (was necessary), either in a response back to them or by the work that’s been carried out.”
The Transportation Safety Board is still conducting an investigation into the accident, and Hedderson said its report is due next June. As for his department’s internal investigation, Hedderson said it will conclude later this year.
Hedderson said some aspects of the internal investigation will not be made public due to privacy concerns relating to crewmembers.
“Understandably, the report will show what we need to do to ensure that we’re taking every precaution. Safety is a primary concern here — there’s no doubt.”
As for whether any of the changes introduced on the MV Beaumont Hamel will be considered for other vessels operated by the province, Hedderson said government considers the bigger picture any time an incident happens with a vessel, while adding that not all vessels are alike.
“We’re talking specifically about the Beaumont (Hamel), and what we’ve done with the Beaumont may not apply to another vessel. ... If there are adjustments or some procedures that we need to do universally throughout the fleet, that will be carried out.”
Hedderson later said the investigation will look at past records and events relevant to the accident, including previous inspections and repairs.
Conception Bay East-Bell Island MHA David Brazil said the ferry’s imminent return is welcome news for himself and residents of the island, who have made use of the MV Flanders and the MV Nonia since the accident.
“Hopefully when the Beaumont Hamel passes its sea trails and gets back into service, we’ll be able to maximize the number of people coming to-and-from Bell Island,” said Brazil, who added the summer is a busy employment season and that ferry traffic increases as a result of tourism.