Crash that trapped BC Ferries passengers for hours caused by 'procedural error,' officials say
The ferry crash that trapped around 200 passengers on a BC Ferries vessel for 10 hours back in March was caused by a "procedural error," according to an executive director at the corporation.
The Queen of Surrey collided with a berthing structure at the Langdale terminal while making a turn around 8 a.m. on March 26, causing what officials described as superficial damage to the ferry and requiring it be pulled from service.
The conclusion from an internal investigation was that mistakes related to speed and navigation were made by those on the bridge.
“In the process of bringing the ship around onto the final approach track at the correct speed, some mistakes were made in ensuring we were lined up properly for the dock, and at the right speed,” said Darren Johnston, executive director of fleet operations at BC Ferries.
The vessel didn’t slow down early enough to make sure they were on the right track, and that’s when the ferry came in contact with the pontoon. Johnston said the ship was going about four knots when it should’ve been going about one to two knots.
In terms of an example, Johnston said it was like parking a car, but on a much bigger scale.
“You drive a little bit too far into the parking space, and the front of your car gets caught up on those low concrete barriers at the front of the parking spot, and you have to slowly back your vehicle off to avoid damage to the bumper and the licence plate," he said.
It took two tugboats to manouver the Queen of Surrey away from the docks so it could be realigned and passengers could finally be let out, sparking cheers from onlookers. Drivers honked their horns in excitement as they made it back to dry land after 6 p.m.
No one was injured in the accident. Johnston says no more than 300 people were aboard. He added the corporation has upwards of 170,000 sailings a year, and every few years an accident like this happens. He called the incident “rare.”
BC Ferries said it has acted on recommendations from the internal report, and improved cross-checking. An additional officer is now on the bridge to help with that. In addition, the navigational track was studied and “minor” adjustments were made, said Johnston. Long-term solutions like training will also be acted upon.
“As far as giving a guarantee that it could never happen again, that’s not possible,” he added. “We can’t say something will never happen again, but in terms of managing the risk, we do absolutely everything we can to prevent any re-occurrence.”