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Inadequate monitoring and Watchlist issue highlighted in September 2014 striking of the breakwater by the tug Vachon in Port Cartier, Quebec
Québec, Quebec, 5 January 2016 — In its investigation report (M14C0193) released today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) identified several factors which led to the striking of the breakwater by the tug Vachon while assisting—with the tug Brochu—the bulk carrier Orient Crusader in Port Cartier, Quebec. No pollution or injuries were reported, but the Vachon and the breakwater sustained minor damage.
On 12 September 2014, at 1907 EDT, the Orient Crusader departed from its anchored position approximately 3 nautical miles off Port Cartier and began proceeding toward the port. At 2012 EDT, the Brochu transferred a marine harbour pilot to the Orient Crusader, and the bridge team then consisted of the master, the pilot, a helmsman, and a third officer, who was also acting as officer of the watch (OOW). The pilot was navigating visually utilizing the harbor approach range lights. While entering the harbour with the assistance of the two tugs the Orient Crusader deviated from the recommended track due to the prevailing current. Although corrective actions were attempted to regain the approach track on the range lights, they were insufficient.
At the same time, the monitoring by the Orient Crusader bridge team did not detect the developing unsafe situation with respect to the Vachon’s proximity to the breakwater. When it became apparent that the Vachon would not clear the breakwater, the master on the Vachon activated the tow-abort mechanism in order to release the tow line; however, the tow-abort mechanism failed to operate and the tug struck the breakwater.
The investigation determined that in the case of the Orient Crusader, other than the pilot, it was unclear as to who on the bridge was monitoring the vessel’s position; therefore, the master and the OOW were likely unaware of the extent to which the vessels had deviated from the recommended track. Lack of monitoring by bridge teams when a pilot is on board, and inadequate communications between the pilot and the bridge team are serious issues the TSB has identified in previous investigations (M12L0147, M13L0123). If bridge team members do not continue to actively participate in the monitoring of the vessel’s progress when a pilot is on board, there is a risk that errors in navigation may go undetected.
In the case of the Vachon, the investigation ascertained that the company was not regularly testing the tow-abort mechanism to ensure it was fully operational under its maximum tension. Lloyd’s Register, which was delegated by Transport Canada (TC) to conduct inspections of the vessel, was not consistently inspecting the towing equipment. Further, these omissions were not detected by TC compliance inspections.
A safety management system (SMS) is used to ensure safe practices in vessel operations and to promote a safe working environment. In this case, the Vachon did not have an SMS, nor was the vessel required to have one by regulation; therefore, certain potential hazards associated with the towing equipment had not been assessed. Safety management and oversight is an issue on the TSB’s Watchlist—which is a list of issues that pose the greatest risk to Canada’s transportation system. The Board has been calling on TC to implement regulations requiring all operators to have formal safety management processes and for TC to oversee these processes.
On 13 November 2015, TC issued a notice that was sent to all TC inspectors and recognized organizations reminding them of the regulatory requirements concerning tow-abort equipment. For their part, Lloyd’s Register has adjusted its inspection checklists requiring surveyors to examine the emergency release arrangements for towing equipment.
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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