National Post (Latest Edition)

Fatigue behind grounding of tug: TSB

- Gemma KarStenS-Smith

VA NCOU V ER • The Transporta­tion Safety Board has called for more training on fatigue in the marine industry after finding a crew member fell asleep and missed a planned course change before a tugboat ran aground off B.C.’s coast.

About 107,000 litres of diesel and more than 2,200 litres of lubricants, including gear and hydraulic oils, leaked after the Nathan E. Stewart partially sank near Bella Bella in October 2016 while towing a barge.

Board chair Kathy Fox said the second mate had been working six hours on, six hours off for more than two days, which didn’t allow for sufficient rest.

“It’s hard enough to work a six-on, six-off shift for days on end without getting a good night’s sleep,” she said Thursday after the board issued its report. “It’s harder still to do it without the means to recognize and combat the fatigue that this schedule inevitably generates.”

Alarms to alert crew members when a vessel goes off course weren’t switched on when the 30-metre tug ran aground, Fox said, adding regulation­s do not require them to be activated.

“They were sometimes turned off just to avoid what’s perceived to be nuisance alarms, but in this case could have provided warning to the watchkeepe­r,” she said.

The report recommends watchkeepe­rs be trained to help identify and prevent the risks of fatigue and that all vessel owners have fatigue-management plans tailored to individual operators.

Fatigue has been identified by the board as a “casual or contributo­ry factor” in a number of other marine accidents and Fox said this case was compelling enough to prompt a call for change.

“We think that just regulating time off isn’t in and of itself enough. It’s got to be part of a global strategy that includes education, scheduling principles and alertness strategies and other defences,” she said.

The second mate was alone on the bridge at night and did not have training that would exempt the vessel from needing a marine pilot, both of which are contrary to Canadian regulation­s, the report says. Another investigat­ion into the possible contravent­ions is underway, Fox said. “Transport Canada is the safety regulator so it’s their responsibi­lity to look at whether there was noncomplia­nce and then what enforcemen­t action may need to be taken after the fact.”

The board also said spill response and recovery efforts were within prescribed time standards, but it wasn’t always clear who had authority. “There was definitely a bit of confusion in the beginning,” said Glenn Budden, the board investigat­or in charge of the case.

Chief Marilyn Slett of the Heiltsuk First Nation said she’s disappoint­ed the report’s recommenda­tions around spill response weren’t stronger. The fuel spill forced the closure of prime seafood harvesting and fishing areas, which continues to have devastatin­g impacts on the community, she said.

“Our community has continued to pay the price.”

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