Duke Point crash caused by electrical failure in propulsion system

An electrical component failure in the Coastal Inspiration’s propulsion control system, and lack of reaction time for crew members led to the Dec. 20 crash at the Duke Point ferry terminal.

A B.C. Ferries’ internal investigation concluded the root of the problem was caused by an electrical component failing in the propulsion control system, which controls the pitch of the vessel.

Backup safety procedures weren’t executed properly, but there was little time for the crew to react to the situation, said Deborah Marshall, B.C. Ferries spokeswoman.

Crew members had about 90 seconds to activate the emergency pitch control that could have overridden the system, said Marshall.

Investigators made several key recommendations to avoid a similar situation in the future including: increasing the distance of pre-arrival checks so crew members have more time to react during emergencies; and creating an alarm that would draw the crew’s attention to an issue.

“Right now there is no flashing or audible alarm,” said Marshall.

The corporation plans to include the scenario in its training exercises. B.C. Ferries has three simulators to train employees, similar to the technology used to teach pilots.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is also investigating the crash.

John Cottreau, safety board spokesman, said the independent investigation is in its early stages with information still be gathered.  There is no timeline for a release of the report.

The estimated cost of repairs for the Duke Point terminal is $2.2 million.

Marshall said a significant portion of that will be paid through the corporation’s commercial insurance, but she couldn’t say how much.

Damage to the Coastal Inspiration’s bow doors totalled $380,000. The vessel returned to service on Jan. 25.

Repair work at Duke Point is on schedule and the terminal is expected to reopen in mid-April.

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