BC Ferries has hired former Auditor General George Morfitt to conduct an independent review of the company's safety policies, procedures and practices.
Work on the safety audit began immediately, with the report expected to be completed and made public by late this year. The review will assess BC Ferries' compliance with the Canada Shipping Act's regulations, codes and standards. It will also review the company's compliance with its own safety management system.
BC Ferries president David Hahn said the company intends to repeat the safety review every five years.
The safety review announcement comes almost four months after the sinking of the Queen of the North, a devastating blow to BC Ferries, which calls itself "the safest and finest marine transportation system in the world". Two passengers aboard the QN are still missing and presumed to have drowned in the incident.
North Coast MLA Gary Coons, the opposition critic for ferries, said his first thought was that the independent safety review was an excellent undertaking. However, he said he was surprised to learn that Mr. Hahn and the BC Ferries board of directors will be able to read Mr. Morfitt's report before it is released to the public.
That's a problem, Mr. Coons said.
"For public confident to be fully restored in BC Ferries, we need to see the unvarnished truth," he said. "If it goes through the board of directors, users of the marine highway system will be left wondering what got edited out."
Mr. Coons has been calling for a safety review for the past several weeks, since former BC Ferries safety director Darin Bowland launched a lawsuit against the company.
He also said the terms of reference for Mr. Morfitt's review make no mention of some critical areas, like how BC Ferries, Transport Canada, the provincial Ministry of Transportation and the federal Department of Transportation interrelate, and how BC Ferries got exemptions from Transport Canada for the northern vessels to keep sailing until 2012.