Private operation of West Coast ferry fleet was a controversial move made by Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell
Vancouver (7 June 2006) - A preliminary assessment by the federal Transportation Safety Board says the sinking of the Queen of the North can be traced to the inadequate training of crew members by B.C. Ferries, the agency that runs the West Coast ferry system for the B.C. government.
Privatization of B.C. Ferries management, and the appointment of American businessman David Hahn to run the now-secretive system on behalf of the B.C. government, was a major and controversial move made by Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell during his first term in office.
A May 11 letter by the federal board to B.C. Ferries raises serious questions about the level of training that managers provided to crew members. The purpose of the letter is to alert management to take corrective measures without waiting for the board's final report on the tragedy.
As reported by several media outlets, the letter says crew members were unfamiliar with a new steering and navigation system the night the ferry ran aground off Gill Island with 101 people aboard. Two passengers are still missing and are presumed to have drowned.
The Queen of the North underwent a refit prior to the March voyage.
"Information gathered so far has revealed that some bridge team members were not familiar with the use of all of the bridge equipment and controls," Marcel Ayeko, a safety board marine investigator, said in the letter.
The letter notes that bridge team members had different understandings of how the new steering-mode selector switch worked and weren't aware of how to adjust the electronic chart system display.
Ayeko suggested that B.C. Ferries take measures to ensure "crew members are fully familiarized with and trained to operate new or modified equipment such that they are prepared to be able to safely carry out their duties."
Eric Asselin, a transportation safety board investigator, said it is the responsibility of management to ensure that crew members are adequately trained.
"There was a lack of training, and we are saying that training should be part and parcel of management [responsibility]," he added.
Hahn's initial response has been to question the report. "I don't know if I buy into it," he told one media outlet. NUPGE