Marine news release 2006

TSB # M08/2006


(Vancouver, British Columbia, July 18, 2006) - The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) today released images taken during its second dive operation on the Queen of the North (occurrence M06W0052). The completion of the dive operation marks the end of the field phase of the investigation.

At approximately 0020 Pacific standard time on March 22, 2006, the British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. (BCFS) vessel Queen of the North, while in transit between Prince Rupert and Port Hardy, British Columbia, struck Gil Island, sustaining damage that resulted in the vessel's sinking shortly over an hour later. Passengers and crew were evacuated to the nearby village of Hartley Bay. Of the 101 passengers and crew, 99 were accounted for. Two passengers are missing and are presumed to have been on the vessel when it sank.

Within a week of the accident, the TSB directed a two-day dive operation on the Queen of the North. This operation provided important visual information about the vessel's condition and allowed the TSB to accurately establish its location.

The information obtained on the first dive was vital to the planning of the subsequent dive. On June 15, 2006, the Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility (CSSF) of Sidney, British Columbia, operated its ROPOS (remotely operated platform for ocean science) for a dive at a depth of 426 metres.

The purpose of the two-day dive was to retrieve information that could assist the TSB in understanding the events that led to the sinking of the Queen of the North. One aim of the dive was to document the vessel's wheelhouse. This was successfully done and images taken of the Queen of the North are being released today. These images show the ROPOS at work clearing the area of debris, breaking a bridge window to gain access, and taking images of the bridge.

The second aim of the dive was to retrieve bridge systems that could help the TSB analyze and validate the circumstances surrounding this accident. The dive operation resulted in the successful retrieval of the hard drive from the electronic chart system (ECS), the automated identification system (AIS) unit, the global positioning system (GPS) receiver, and the digital selective calling (DSC) radio. Analysis of the data retrieved from these components is ongoing.

While the retrieval of these systems will assist the TSB in piecing together the vessel's movements, voyage data recorders (VDRs) are a superior tool that will substantially benefit safety investigations.

These devices are designed to perform a similar function to aircraft "black boxes," which have been in use on board aircraft for a considerable time, recording vital information from the ship's sensors and voice recorders in a hardened data capsule for analysis by safety investigators following an incident. Recognizing the value of these devices in safety investigations, the Board has identified the absence of VDRs as one of its key safety issues in 1997 and 1999.

BCFS has informed the TSB that all new vessels will be fitted with VDRs and that existing vessels will be retrofitted with simplified voyage data recorders (SVDRs).

The investigation will now focus on the analysis of all the information that has been gathered. This includes analysis of the electronic navigation equipment, documentation, together with information obtained from interviews with crew and passengers on board the ferry at the time of the accident, as well as with BCFS management, in order to reconstruct events and identify safety deficiencies. The third and final phase of the investigation will be the production of the final report, which includes the review of a draft report by Board-designated confidential draft reviewers.

If the TSB identifies a safety deficiency at any time during the investigation, it will issue a safety communication so that the deficiency can be addressed as quickly as possible.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

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