Blue Puttees lists again

MP Gerry Byrne wants federal investigation

Barb Sweet
Published on March 22, 2011
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.

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.