Sunday, June 28, 2009

It's getting crowded out there on the seas

Every time a BC Ferry heads out of a British Columbia port there are dangers lurking, whether it be crab boats tending more to their catch than their navigation, whale watching tourists keenly watching for whales while missing the looming boat on the starboard side, or fellow travellers of the ferry fleets on the west coast who may not quite know the rules of the straits.

The Vancouver Sun has outlined five near misses for BC Ferries in 2008, where action had to be taken by ferry crews in order to avoid potential disaster.

Put into the context of the ferry fleet's 185,000 sailings a year, five near misses does suggest a pretty impressive safety record. But it only takes one tragedy to change lives forever. The details of the reports filed with Transport Canada do provide an outline as to the need for attention at all times when the fleet heads out.

All five reported near misses took place in southern waters, part of the heavy traffic patterns of the Strait of Georgia, the area known as Active Pass an apparently appropriately named part of the strait.

Of the five cases detailed, one does have a northwest connection however, as an incident between the Alaska Ferry Malaspina and the BC Ferry Coastal Renaissance made the list. The December 26th rendezvous between the two resulted in the BC Ferry making a 360 degree turn in order to let the Malaspina pass. What appears to have been a misunderstanding on the proper procedure between the two seems to have been the cause of that particular near miss.

The Malaspina of course may be a tad nervous in Canadian waters anyways, it was in Prince Rupert back in 1997 that it was the focal point of a blockade in Prince Rupert harbour over the then controversial issue of Alaskan fishing policies and the interception of BC bound salmon by the Alaska fleet.

The full examination of the five near misses was detailed on the Vancouver Sun website.

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