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Miscommunication led to hard docking

A leaky fuel injector triggered a chain of events that caused the B.C. ferry Queen of Coquitlam to crash into a berthing fender at Departure Bay ferry terminal last year.

The accident happened shortly after 2 p.m. Nov. 18, 2011, as the ship approached Departure Bay terminal with one of its two main engines shut down and the clutch connecting the ship’s drive system to its front propeller disengaged.

The Transportation Safety Board report, released Thursday, said the engine had been shut down so the crew could replace a leaking fuel injector discovered during the voyage.

Lacking the thrust and control from the front propeller, the ferry could not decelerate quickly enough and manoeuvre sufficiently to avoid colliding with the port-side fender of the terminal’s No. 2 berth.

The vessel struck at a speed of just over four knots, heavily damaging the berthing fender and the ship’s rubbing strake – the heavy band of protective metal encircling the vessel’s hull.

No one was injured and no pollution was released in the incident that B.C. Ferries characterized as a hard docking.

The TSB report concluded, in part, that incomplete communications between the master and the chief engineer led to a misunderstanding as to the status of the ship’s drive system and the front propeller’s availability for docking, which compromised the ability for the vessel to dock safely.

Since the accident, B.C. Ferries has changed its operating and safety procedures regarding speed reduction at the conclusion of a voyage.

Deborah Marshall, B.C. Ferries Corporation spokeswoman, said the Transportation Safety Board’s conclusions are consistent with the findings of B.C. Ferries’ investigation.

“We did conclude that it was procedural errors and miscommunication that caused the incident,” Marshall said. “The captain was aware that they were working on the engine and knew that it was locked out, but he wasn’t aware that he would not have use of the bow propeller until very close to docking.”

Once aware of the situation, the captain made the decision to proceed with the docking.

“He did consciously make the decision to dock without the front propeller, because they can do that and he has done it in the past, but unfortunately it didn’t work out in this situation,” Marshall said. “We’re using it as a learning opportunity and we have tightened up our standard operating procedures regarding communication about locking out pieces of equipment to make sure everybody is 100 per cent clear and we’ve also backed up our pre-arrivals checks.”

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