Passenger ferry Deer Island Princess II made bottom contact near Letete, NB, as a result of safety management deficiencies
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, 29 April 2021 — In its investigation report (M18A0001) released today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) determined that common safety hazards, such as extremely low tides, had not been identified and mitigated by the operator of the passenger ferry Deer Island Princess II, which contributed to the 2018 bottom contact in New Brunswick.
On 2 February 2018, the passenger ferry Deer Island Princess II, with four people on board, made bottom contact while transiting from Butler Point, Deer Island, NB to Letete, NB. As a result, one of two Z-drive thruster units detached from the vessel. The crew aborted the voyage and was returning to Butler Point using the remaining thruster when the vessel made bottom contact a second time, detaching the remaining thruster. With no propulsion, the vessel was anchored and towed to Letete the following day. There were no injuries as a result of the occurrence. There was minor pollution.
The investigation found that a combination of the lower-than-predicted tide level, local topography and a persistent northwesterly wind resulted in a water level that was significantly lower than tide table predictions in the area. As a result, there was not enough water along the route to accommodate the vessel’s draft. Also, the master was not aware of the actual height of the tide, and had no means of determining water depth since the vessel was not equipped with a depth sounder and the tide boards at Butler Point Wharf and Letete were in disrepair and unusable.
Under current regulations, the Deer Island Princess II is not required to have a safety management system (SMS). However, the partnership agreement between the Province of New Brunswick and the vessel’s managing company, Coastal Transport Limited, required the company to comply with the International Safety Management Code.
The investigation identified several safety risks, such as grounding or striking bottom during low tides, for which no risk mitigation measures were taken by the operator as part of its SMS. Additionally, the Deer Island Princess II and John E. Rigby, both operated by Coastal Transport Limited, have been involved in four grounding or bottom contact occurrences since the current SMS was put in place by the operator in 2012. If companies do not identify and implement the appropriate corrective action required to address shortcomings within their safety management systems, there is a risk that non-conformities with the system will persist.
Safety management is on the TSB’s Watchlist 2020. To date, only Canadian vessels that operate on international voyages and are subject to Chapter IX of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) must comply with the existing Safety Management Regulations. These regulations do not apply to the majority of domestic vessels (referred to as “non-convention” vessels), although the recent “tiered” proposal by Transport Canada would expand their applicability.
As this occurrence demonstrates, even when operators do have safety management processes in place, they are not always able to demonstrate that hazards are being identified and that effective risk mitigation measures are being implemented.
Following the occurrence, Coastal Transport Limited completed an internal investigation of the occurrence with respect to weather, timeline of events, damage, observations, root causes, recommendations, and costs by consulting with the masters working on the Deer Island ferry service. The review resulted in no changes to the safety management system for operations at low tide.
See the investigation page for more information.
The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail 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.
For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada