In January 2000, the TSB sent Marine Safety Advisory (MSA) 04/00 to Transport Canada (TC). The Advisory expressed that, notwithstanding the issuance of Ship Safety Bulletin (SSB) 3/96,(8) navigation light deficiencies persist along with an accompanying loss of life and that TC may wish to initiate additional measures to ensure navigation lights carried aboard vessels, in particular tugs and tows, have ranges of visibility which minimize the risk of collision.
TC has advised, by letter, the Council of Marine Carriers in British Columbia of the importance of having towing-related vessels display navigation lights that conform with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 (COLREGS) requirements for intensity, range and arc of visibility. TC sent copies of that letter to the Workers' Compensation Board of British Columbia, the B.C. Maritime Employers Association, the editors of the publications West Coast Mariner and Harbour & Shipping, and all TC Pacific marine inspectors.
On 23 June 2000, TC issued SSB 09/2000, entitled Navigation Lights and Ranges of Visibility. The Bulletin refers to COLREGS, and reminds shipowners, agents, vessel operators and, in particular, masters of vessels towing or pushing non-propelled vessels that the towed and pushed vessels are required to exhibit the prescribed navigation lights. It highlights that tests conducted on battery-operated lights such as "Scotty" lanterns manufactured by Scott Plastics Ltd. of Victoria, B.C., and kerosene/oil lanterns indicated a marked decrease in range of visibility. It stipulates that:
Canadian industry has worked with Transport Canada to produce a portable navigation light acceptable for use on barges. Two major barge-towing companies on the West Coast are working to obtain Transport Canada approval for a portable barge navigation light approved by the United States Coast Guard.
The search and rescue (SAR) operation order for the Celebration of Light (formerly Symphony of Fire) event is reviewed and updated annually. On 15 June 2001, Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCC) Victoria issued "SAR Operation Order 2001 Celebration of Light" intended to protect the public and the Celebration of Light employees. The components of the Order include both SAR operations and event contingency planning.
RCC Victoria is responsible for SAR response; the Vancouver Port Authority is responsible for overall safe operation of the harbour and provides clearance to commercial vessels to enter the harbour. The plan is a joint effort and was produced following meetings with all interested parties. In keeping with the local Incident Command Structure, meetings were chaired by the Harbour Master and the final "RCC Victoria SAR Operation Order 2001 Celebration of Light" document was agreed to by the Harbour Master and all concerned.
The command and control of the SAR Order falls under the auspices of the Commander, Maritime Forces Pacific, who has responsibility for SAR in the area, and any amendments would be issued by the Officer-in-Charge at RCC Victoria. Emergency Health Services (EHS) personnel would be available on one of the support vessels and a list of evacuation locations, descriptions and contact numbers would be available. Other support services identified include Marine communications and Traffic Services (MCTS), the Pacific Weather Centre, Public Affairs, Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) marine resources, and Department of National Defence air resources. Also, police, fire, amateur radio, ambulance, sailing clubs and the Vancouver Parks Board would assist.
A safety issue identified in this accident report was the risk of collision associated with commercial vessels and a high density of pleasure craft in the same area. Under the SAR Order, commercial traffic would be assisted by a Port Authority vessel in the First Narrows area. Further, to help ensure the safe transit of both commercial vessels and pleasure craft in Burrard Inlet, escort vessels are strategically positioned, at the periphery of the pleasure craft congregation area, to keep pleasure craft from impeding the passage of commercial vessels.
The Board believes that these measures will further transportation safety by mitigating some of the risks associated with special events. However, the impact of these changes on safety cannot be fully determined at this stage--continuing evaluation of the plan is encouraged.
The Board noted that in situations where there is a larger-than-usual volume of pleasure craft operating near commercial traffic, there is an elevated risk of collision. This is compounded by the fact that pleasure craft operators may be operating their vessels without adequate navigational knowledge. Over-water displays are also held at a number of other Canadian ports, including Halifax, Québec, Montréal, Toronto and Windsor. These ports have in place plans and procedures to reduce this risk.
In light of this occurrence, and given the dynamic nature of these special events, the Board further encourages those responsible for organizing and coordinating special events to periodically review their arrangements and contingencies to identify and mitigate newly arising risks. To this end, the Board has communicated this concern to the various responsible organizations across Canada, through targeted distribution of a marine safety information letter, and of the final report of this investigation.
Following the occurrence, MCTS reviewed its Vancouver operations' procedures, training and equipment efficiency. The following recommendations made to CCG management, to optimize MCTS Centre performance, have been implemented:
The CCG, aware that the absence of knowledge on the identification of light configurations on tugs increases the risk of marine accidents, has introduced the following safety information message in its 2001 edition of the Safe Boating Guide:
Tugs may be towing barges or other ships on a long tow-line astern. Often, the length of the tow is so great that the towline hangs below the surface of the water and is virtually invisible. If a small vessel strikes the submerged towline it could capsize and then be run down by the barge. Never pass between a tug and its tow and make sure that you are aware of the special lights displayed by tugs towing barges or other vessels or objects.
This guide is distributed free of charge and is also available on the CCG Web site.
In addition, the CCG has formed working groups to assess the Operator Competency Program and will make recommendations for improving the implementation of the program. This could result in a review of the CCG Boating Safety Course Standard for the inclusion of more COLREGS knowledge for boaters.
Corporate safety initiatives applicable to the marine arm, in place since 1999, are as follows:
8. SSB 3/96 warns the marine community of the dangers associated with the use of navigation lights that do not comply with the COLREGS, be it with respect to the proper carriage, display or technical details. It also advises builders, owners and operators who are unclear as to the requirements for navigation lights on their vessels to contact a Transport Canada, Marine Safety, office.