TSB urged to broaden Marine Atlantic investigation

Brodie Thomas
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Gerry Byrne cites numerous examples of equipment failures

The Blue Puttees in Port aux Basques. — File photo by TC Media

By Brodie Thomas

TC Media—Port aux Basques

and The Telegram

Gerry Byrne is calling on the national Transportation Safety Board (TSB) to do a thorough investigation of all problems that have occurred with the Marine Atlantic ferries.

The western Newfoundland Liberal MP says there have been chronic mechanical problems with the ships, and two of Marine Atlantic’s ferry captains have been either fired or suspended since the new fleet of vessels came online.

“If you look at the circumstances here, you’ve got experienced captains (that) are being thrown under the bus right, left and centre, because of accidents that are occurring that never occurred in the history of the corporation,” said Byrne.

 

Marine Atlantic confirmed by email it has 12 captains on its staff, but said it does not discuss personnel issues when asked to comment on Byrne’s allegations that captains have been fired and suspended.

Byrne said he has had 25 or 30 emails and telephone calls from crew members telling him about problems on the ship. He said none of those crew members have cited problems with the people at the controls. Their concerns are all about equipment failures.

Marine Atlantic has said the investigation of the latest incident with the Blue Puttees has not found any signs of mechanical problems. The TSB is investigating the July 31 incident which put the Puttees out of service until the end of the month.

“The TSB has broad authority to investigate; their findings, however, are not designed to assign fault,” said Marine Atlantic in its email.

Byrne said the incident with the Blue Puttees is just the latest in a long line of problems, not all of which have been made public.

“There have been three roll incidents on the Blue Puttees due to stabilizers,” said Byrne.

“There was an explosion in the crank case. There have been fires on board the Atlantic Vision. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the third ramming incident at a dock by one of these larger vessels.”

 

Other problems

He also cited brownouts, electrical issues, and false deployment of the stabilizers as other problems he has been told about.

Byrne said the National Research Council (NRC) has been brought in to investigate some previous incidents. He doesn’t dispute that the NRC is a world leader in marine technology, but he said they are not the right people to investigate problems with public infrastructure such as the ferries.

“When the National Research Council is brought in to do an investigation, there is an air of credibility to the investigation, but they can only investigate what the company gives them,” he said.

By contrast, Byrne said the TSB is a quasi-judicial body with the power to subpoena information. That is why he wants to see that body conduct a broader investigation.

“If the TSB does not do a solid, thorough investigation of all the incidents, and if there is another incident, it’s going to be on the TSB’s head,” said Byrne, “because they do have a certain amount of discretion.”

Responding to Byrne’s allegations concerning other incidents on its vessels, Marine Atlantic said all companies involved in transportation periodically face mechanical issues, adding it looks to address such matters through preventative measures and its regular maintenance program.

“Marine Atlantic’s vessels exceed today’s stringent international ferry standards for passenger ferries established by the International Maritime Organization, a regulatory body of the United Nations. Our vessels hold all necessary certificates from Det Norske Veritas Classification Society, a non-governmental organization that establishes and maintains technical standards for the construction and operation of ships and whose inspection criteria are in accordance with the Safety of Life at Sea convention, as well as Canada’s regulatory body, Transport Canada. These world-class organizations have certified that our ships are safe vessels.”

 

The Gulf News

Organizations: Transportation Safety Board, Marine Atlantic, National Research Council International Maritime Organization United Nations Det Norske Veritas Classification Society Transport Canada

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • K Hudson
    August 21, 2013 - 00:41

    it's always been the same with the ferries. With complicated machinery you have breakdowns...that's a given. What bothers me is every time there 's a breakdown, all hands break their butts to get her going again, often without sleep or food. It's a matter of pride, and a matter of providing a return to scheduled sailings for passengers. Yet every time, some CEO or spokesman is heard on the radio blaming the crew for ignorance. There is absolutely no positive feedback when the crew gets those vessels running again ,as quickly as possible. The crew members have themselves to smile at for a job they know they have given their all to. Perhaps it is time for management and the public to realize who is competent and who is not. This content is not inappropriate. It is simple truth.

  • Annoyed
    August 20, 2013 - 21:44

    I think you should really get your facts straight before you shoot your mouth off about something you have no idea. By your allegations about qualifications of staff, surely you have no idea what your talking about. If it interest you I have 20 years of seamanship, which includes a Marine Emergency Duties course, Able Body seaman course, Marine Advanced First Aid, Fast Rescue Craft, thats just to name a few. So that seem like alot more than a few months of hospitality and secoundly, how do you propose to run it like a business when it signed by confederation as a link (service) between 2 provinces. If you think you have in adequate staff now, do you honestly think your going to get better by privatization?

  • Annoyed
    August 20, 2013 - 21:35

    I think you should really get your facts straight before you shoot your mouth off about something you have no idea. By your allegations about qualifications of staff, surely you have no idea what your talking about. If it interest you I have 20 years of seamanship, which includes a Marine Emergency Duties course, Able Body seaman course, Marine Advanced First Aid, Fast Rescue Craft, thats just to name a few. So that seem like alot more than a few months of hospitality and secoundly, how do you propose to run it like a business when it signed by confederation as a link (service) between 2 provinces. If you think you have in adequate staff now, do you honestly think your going to get better by privatization?

  • halisquak
    August 20, 2013 - 10:20

    I think that it is inappropriate to say captains are being thrown under the bus. One recent firing was due to falsifying qualification papers for another employee. In these events, personnel changes are exactly what you need. If someone were to investigate, I wonder if the people driving/operating these things are qualified. Most of them only have a couple month course in hospitality and some poor french. I wonder what the qualifications are to operate (like actually operate) the vessel. That, and since the drinking regulations have come onboard, the crew probably doesn't know how to work "dry" since for the history of the boats, it seemed most of them treated it as a party cruise. The whole operation needs a fine toothed going over. And, then, perhaps they should privatize so it is operated like a business not a haemorrhaging money vessel.

    • Ron
      August 22, 2013 - 17:52

      I have to say halisquak.... It sounds like you are just doing the same, throwing all of the crew under the bus. I have been working Marine Atlantic for 25 years and from what I just read that you wrote, you have no clue what you are talking about and maybe you should get your facts straight. These crews on the vessels gives there heart and soul every shift to make the operation work. They do this with very little support and everytime something goes wrong the management team singles out a new person to point there finger at. Shame on you halisquak, shame on the upper management of Marine Atlantic for providing the worst management team I've seen in 25 years. As it goes for your privatization idea "get real".

  • mainland newfie
    August 19, 2013 - 21:40

    Marine Atlantic went to hell the day they got rid of the caribou and smallwood..those ferries very good sea boats and made a person feel safe..wtf were marine atlantic bigshots thinking completely changing the design..the new ferries load tractor trailers on the top..any moron with half a grain knows to put heavy shit on the bottom for more stability...Im from port aux basques orig and haven't been home in a long time just because those new CORKS arnt safe to be on the strait..I don't like flying but I think I may just fly home next time..prob safer!!..Marine Atlantic needs to get rid of those new corks and build couple more like the caribou..A ferry that has stood to whatever the stait thrown at it.

  • Darryl from West Coast
    August 16, 2013 - 11:14

    Part of the problem is a power struggle....Six different unions in one company the size of Marine Atlantic.

  • david
    August 15, 2013 - 13:06

    Marine Atlantic...We're Changing!" .... "Just give us a chance!"

  • California Pete from NFLD
    August 15, 2013 - 10:29

    Forget the tunnel, that is a pipe dream. I personaly don't want to drive through Quebec.. 21 centry ferrys in a stone age port don't work to well. It is time to "waist" good money on upgraidn the port after all nothing serious have been done there since 1898.

  • Charli
    August 15, 2013 - 09:57

    Time to search for a new contract with a new carrier. It's obvious to me that Marine Atlantic is having trouble and can't even rectify things with 'knee-jerk' reactions. They just continue to flail while we all pour money into them... never to be seen again. I say privatize the whole ferry system and make carriers compete for the contract.

  • Stacy
    August 15, 2013 - 09:32

    They said that those new ferry boats rock without any wind

  • Julie
    August 15, 2013 - 09:26

    I think it's DEPLORABLE that a Federal Canadian Company this day in age would involve themselves in a cover up for continuous problems with obviously substandard vessels. I live in the South West Coast region and tell you with certainty that these new vessels are no Caribou or Smallwood. With a top heavy company like Marine Atlantic what else are they hiding about these new Vessels? It makes one wonder if it's just two Captains that have been fired or suspended or are there more experienced employees that have been sacrificed to save Managements face.

    • UNIBABE
      August 20, 2013 - 04:49

      ITS TIME FOR THE PEOPLE RUNNING .. MARINE ALANTIC TO TAKE THEIR HEADS OUT OF EACH OTHERS ASSES. SECURITY IN PAB IS GREAT.I WAS IN NORTH SYDNEY A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO WAITING FOR A 1 AM CROSSING,I WAS AT THE HEAD OF LANE 2 YOU HAVE A SECURITY GUARD INSIDE BEING ANAL AN THEN YOU HAVE SOMEONE, SECURITY, AT THE PARKING LOT GATE LETTING PEOPLE COME AN GO WITH OUT BEING CHECKED. SO IS THE SECURITY FEE JUST ANOTHER TAX GRAB....WHAT A JOKE......

  • enough yet
    August 15, 2013 - 08:37

    our environmental laws are being weakened. our election laws are being weakened and disregarded. Is it any wonder that our safety laws are also being weakened. are we in a rush to obtain third world status?

  • Fred from Brigus
    August 15, 2013 - 05:10

    Time to put a tunnel under the Strait of Belle Isle.