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.”
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