Friday, January 12, 2007

Waiting for the paper work to be examined and then released!

The calls are getting louder for BC Ferries to at least release details of an internal audit conducted after the sinking of the Queen of the North. The report in question conducted by George Morfitt last year, was apparently handed in to the board of directors recently, but as of yet has not been made public, despite assurances that it would be release in early January.

It’s making for yet another troubled moment for the beleaguered Ferry Corporation, which has been facing a number of questions regarding safety after more high profile problems with the Corporations’ fleet.

The Morfitt report is not to be confused with the Transportation Safety Board’s comprehensive report into the Queen of the North sinking; it is expected sometime this year, though in another frustrating bit of bureaucracy no one can say for sure when they will release their findings.

The lack of information flow is not doing much to relieve an anxious public over the state of safety at the Ferry Corporation and the secrecy over safety issues is just adding more fuel to an already smoldering fire of suspicion about the happenings both on the ships and on the shore.

The Daily News featured the latest controversy as part of its Thursday newspaper.

By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Pages one and three

An internal safety audit by B. C. Ferries should be released to the public immediately, said North Coast MLA Gary Coons.

The audit, conducted by George Morfitt as a result of public pressure after the sinking of the Queen of the North, was apparently recently handed over to the company’s board of directors and CEO David Hahn, he said.

“If B. C. Ferries has recommendations that would improve safety, the best course of action would be to make those recommendations public and act on them immediately,” said Coons.

“There have been several high-profile incidents that could shake the faith of ferry users in the safety of their travels. Holding back this report does nothing to allay those concerns.”

Morfitt was commissioned to do a safety audit about B. C. Ferries last July, Hahn promised to release the report in early January, although there are already questions about whether or not the public will ever get a full disclosure.

“We pointed out back in July that this needed to be a full public inquiry into the safety of B. C. Ferries and David Hahn under pressure did this internal one,” said the NDP Ports and Ferries critic. “Because it’s crossing Hahn’s desk first, because it’s probably being scrutinized by B. C. Ferries board of directors, I would hope we get the unedited version, but there will always be that question when it’s not released to the public or through the legislature.”

The report’s contents are even more critical in light of a near disaster involving the MV Quinsam on Tuesday night. The ferry began to pull away from the dock while vehicles were loading and the ramp fell into the water. Fortunately, no vehicles were on the ramp at the time.

The internal safety audit may be relevant in that a similar incident happened with the Bowen Queen back in April 2002.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) found it was due to erratic behavior with defective circuit boards controlling the right angle drives which control the motion of the ferry. Nine ferries – including the MV Quinsam – had the drives and ‘a comprehensive’ maintenance schedule was supposed to take place on those vessels as a result. However, with no public oversight of B. C. Ferries any longer, Coons notes we don’t know if the problem was taken care of.

“We look at another incident happening and it’s very disturbing and concerning,” said Coons.

“You don’t want to speculate on whether or not it’s human error or a failure with the drive, but certainly similar incidents have happened and concerns have been voiced.

“I hope that what’s coming in the safety audit from Morfitt is that these things have been done.”

But with questions about what will eventually reach the public, the MLA is again pointing to a lack of public oversight and calling on Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon to provide some assurances that any recommendations coming out of the audit will be acted upon immediately.

“It’s time for the Transportation Minister to admit this privatization was a mistake and restore full accountability, as the acting Auditor General’s report recommended in December,” said Coons.

“The government needs to assure the public that our ferry system, our marine highway, is safe.”

“Any safety audit done by B. C. Ferries needs to be released to the legislature and Minister Falcon needs to direct Hahn to do so, so it can be analyzed, it can be scrutinized and there can be some accountability.”

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