Nathan E. Stewart hit the rocks near Bella Bella in October 2016 (Black Press Media files)

Poorly-managed fatigue led to fuel spill off northern B.C. coast: transportation board

The tug spilled more than 100,000 litres of diesel off B.C.’s northern coast

Industry-wide changes in how fatigue is managed onboard vessels in Canadian waters could avoid more accidents like the Nathan E. Stewart fuel spill near Bella Bella.

The tug spilled 110,000 litres of diesel fuel and 2,000 litres of lubricants into the waters off the northern B.C. coast on Oct. 13, 2016, after the second mate fell asleep.

The Nathan E. Stewart sank the next day, causing $12 million in damage to the 30-metre tug and the empty barge it was pulling. The vessel was brought up and out of the water in mid-November 2016.

In a report released Thursday, the Transportation Safety Board made two recommendations: that Transport Canada require watchkeepers to receive education and awareness training to help identify and prevent the risks of fatigue and that vessel owners bring in individualized fatigue-management plans.

The accident had happened around 1 a.m. on Oct. 13, after the second mate fell asleep sometime after 12:24 p.m.

The tug ran aground at 1:08 a.m. after having continued on autopilot since the second mate last changed its course at 12:24 a.m.

The second mate had taken over steering the vessel at 11 p.m. that night, about an hour before he usually did.

The tug started to go off-course at 12:53 a.m., when the sleeping second mate missed a course change, before running aground at 1:08 a.m. after having continued on autopilot since the second mate last changed its course at 12:24 a.m.

The second mate admitted to investigators that he fell asleep but said he felt he had had “adequate” rest in the days leading up to the accident, despite losing an hour of sleep that night.

“The watchkeepers of the Nathan E. Stewart had been working the ‘six on, six off’ shift schedule for two-and-a-half days prior to the grounding,” said TSB chair Kathy Fox.

“Although this schedule provides opportunity for sleep, the second mate was unable to nap during the afternoon rest periods. You can regulate hours of rest but you can’t regulate how many hours somebody sleeps because that’s very individual.”

The schedule kept by the second mate did comply with Canadian marine regulations, Fox noted, but added that “six on, six off is known to contribute to fatigue.”

“Although this type of shift schedule has been called into question by various international studies and experts, it continues to be used throughout the marine industry,” Fox said.

As a result, Fox acknowledged that it would be difficult to shift away from this schedule, but said that only reemphasized the need to have watchkeepers better trained to identify fatigue and have a “clear, well thought out plan” to address it.

“It’s hard enough to work a six on, six off shift for days on end without getting a good night’s sleep. It’s harder still to do it without the means to recognize and combat that fatigue that this schedule inevitably generates,” said Fox.

Fox recommended that crews be trained to combat fatigue when it “inevitably” does hit, by “being active rather than sitting in a comfortable chair, lowering the temperature rather than raising it, raising the lights, use of caffeine as an alertness strategy.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

On the Wing: Christmas bird count reports, part 1

Haida Gwaii’s bird count report for Port Clements and Rose Spit

Queen Charlotte housing assessment jumps 31 per cent

Port Clements and Masset also see increases, according to B.C. Assessment

Pipeline at centre of B.C. conflict is creating jobs for First Nations: chief

All 20 elected band councils along the Coastal GasLink pipeline route have signed benefits agreements

Power saving measures in effect on Haida Gwaii

B.C. Hydro asks residents to conserve electricity to avoid outages during cold weather

RCMP create access control checkpoint on Morice West Forest Service Road

Premier says Coastal GasLink project will proceed despite opposition

Fashion Fridays: Look your best this year

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Crown won’t appeal sentence in child sex assault case of former Burns Lake mayor

B.C. Prosecution Service said sentence doesn’t meet standard for appeal

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

B.C. pair ordered to pay $55,000 for oil tank discovered four years after selling home

Judge says defendants breached contract, despite being unaware of tank until basement flooded

Canada to give $25,000 to families of each Canadian who died in Iran plane crash

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made it clear that Canada still expects Iran to compensate victims

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Oil and gas industry applauds top court’s dismissal of B.C.’s Trans Mountain case

The high court’s ruling Thursday removes one of the remaining obstacles for the project

Sub-zero B.C. weather freezes clothing in just 45 minutes

A local photographer decided to have some fun with the frosty weather before its gone

Most Read