B.C. Ferries has suffered one collision and had two other incidents involving abandoned vessels in 2016.
The information was released in Parliament by Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson today (June 6) when she said she learned about the incidents through research consultations with the B.C. Ferries management and the B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers Union.
In a press release, Malcolmson cited an incident involving the MV Queen of Oak Bay when it struck an abandoned vessel in March and was forced to contact Canadian Coast Guard’s vessel tracking services and remain on scene until it was cleared to resume its sailing. Two other unspecified incidents between B.C. Ferries and abandoned vessels were mentioned in the press release.
Malcolmson has been advocating for the federal government take the “lead on a comprehensive coast-wide solution.”
“We know the abandoned vessel issue has fallen through the cracks at the federal level and now we’re getting a clearer idea of the risks and costs, which ripple through our coastal communities and economies,” Malcolmson said, in the release. “Collisions like that endanger the safety of passengers and crew. They create travel delays and economic costs. Additional staff had to be assigned to monitor the ferry afterwards to make sure it was safe. It is dangerous, time consuming, and expensive.”
Deborah Marshall, B.C. Ferries spokes woman, said the Queen of Oak Bay struck an almost fully submerged sailboat March 26 at 10:41 p.m. near Bowen Island on a dark, rainy night as the ferry was approaching Horseshoe Bay.
“It was almost like a dead head. It was just about fully submerged,” Marshall said. “We alerted Coast Guard to it. They were aware of the derelict vessel in the area matching the description.”
Marshall said B.C. Ferries do come across derelict vessels on their routes “on occasion” and are sometimes tasked by the coast guard to check them out.
“The first priority is to make sure there is nobody onboard, nobody in need of assistance or anything like that, but often it is just a derelict vessel that’s broken free from wherever it was moored,” Marshall said.
Marshall went on to say the ferry corporation would like to see derelict vessels be dealt with because of their potential to become navigation hazards. The Queen of Oak Bay’s size protected it from collision damage and passengers from injuries, but a smaller craft colliding with the derelict might not fare so well.
There was no damage to the Queen of Oak Bay. Marshall did not have information on the other two incidents mentioned by Malcolmson.
Malcolmson’s legislation proposing a comprehensive abandoned vessels solution will be debated in Parliament next year.