Controversial sailing should never have happened: Ferries

  • Feb. 12, 2010 5:00 a.m.

The Northern Adventure should never have attempted to cross Hecate Strait in hurricane-force winds the night of Nov. 22, BC Ferries says, after completing an internal investigation this week into the circumstances of the sailing. The sailing, which ended up returning to Prince Rupert after 14 hours at sea, left two crew members injured and many of the almost 100 passengers traumatized. As a result of the investigation, BC Ferries is taking several new safety measures when it comes to Hecate Strait crossings, said spokesperson Deborah Marshall. These include better communication with passengers during heavy weather, better preparation for heavy weather (so that gift shop items, for example, don’t get tossed around), and formal pre-sailing briefings with the heads of the deck, engineering and catering departments. BC Ferries has also standardized the format for conducting weather briefings and preparations for bad weather, has instructed the captain to phone Environment Canada’s marine weather services to get the most up-to-date forecast available in cases when bad weather is predicted, and requires the captain to consult with the marine superintendent in Prince Rupert before sailing if heavy weather is forecast. Ms Marshall said the report’s recommendations have already been implemented and will result in more passenger comfort. She said the Northern Adventure itself performed well during the Nov. 22 sailing, and that the safety of the ship is not an issue. She also said that weather forecasting is not an exact science, and that the captain of the Nov. 22 sailing genuinely believed he had enough of a “weather window” to make it to Skidegate. The investigation was done by a panel headed by BC Ferries’ director of safety, Ms Marshall said. They interviewed many crew members, and also considered information from some of the letters written to BC Ferries by passengers after the incident. The report will not be released to the public, she said.