The Transportation Safety Board says the capsizing of a tug at the mouth of the Fraser River in Vancouver shows the risks the industry faces because of a lack of awareness of the factors that led to the accident last year.
The 19-metre-long George H. Ledcor was hauling a loaded gravel barge on the north arm of the river not far from the city’s airport when it capsized shortly after 10 p.m. on Aug. 13, 2018.
The safety board says it has identified safety risks for the towing industry including informal work practices, insufficient training and a lack of knowledge about the effects of girding, which happens when a vessel is pulled broadside by a tow line force.
The board says the girding and capsizing of the vessel happened quickly after there was an attempt to change the direction of a barge carrying more than 4,600 tonnes of gravel that was also being pushed by an assist tug.
It says as the barge started to overtake the George H. Ledcor, the tow line exerted a broadside force on the tug and attempts to abort the tow were unsuccessful as it “rapidly” capsized.
The four crew members on board were rescued from the vessel’s overturned hull, although the TSB says one deckhand suffered a serious injury to his hand as he attempted to climb onto the barge from the tug.
“The investigation highlighted a number of risk factors, notably: if tug masters are not provided initial and recurrent training and if the towing industry continues to rely primarily on tug masters to manage girding hazards through shiphandling skills and informal practices, there is a continued risk that capsizings due to girding will occur,” the board says in a news release Wednesday.
It says between 2005 and 2018, the TSB received reports of 26 girding situations, resulting in 21 capsizings.
The TSB says the George H. Ledcor was equipped with three abort mechanisms, which are normally used in emergencies and quickly release the winch brake to take tension out of a tow line.
It says the location, orientation and colour of the buttons to activate the abort mechanisms were different and the labels on them were obscured by other controls and switches.
Since the capsizing, the board says Ledcor Resources and Transportation Inc. has taken a number of steps to reduce the likelihood of similar accidents.
It has added procedures to its safety management system on how to recognize and avoid girding situations. Ledcor also introduced a voyage simulator and classroom training for its masters and mates and installed more standard abort mechanisms in common locations on its vessels.
The Canadian Press