Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Paragraph.


As someone who just paid $126.90 to bring my family of four across the waters from the Lower Mainland to Victoria, I have a question.....


This was written by a consulting company working for BC Ferries that served them up a poop sandwich on the German-built 'Coastal Celebration' ferries more than four years ago.

And just in case you missed it, here is the really stinky bit, some of which was likely smeared on the Duke Point dock last week, is stuck right in the middle:

"....The primary drawback is at the dock; when the nearly-feathered propeller is rotating at full RPM, any failure in pitch control could have severe consequences..."

So, given that, according to the most excellent 'Tidal Station' blog, this problem with 'changing pitch' has happened before, but far enough from the dock that it could be corrected manually, why isn't every single proMedia outlet in this province screaming at BC Ferries asking how, exactly, this is being fixed and why, exactly, the other German built ferry that, presumably, also has the same propulsion system, is still running.



Some may say I am being hyperbolic here.

To those, I would respond with the following....

First.... A consulting company working for BC Ferries identifies their propulsion design choice as being a potential problem...

Second...That design decision, based on what we have been told so far, appears to have perhaps, contributed to a crash at a dock that injures people...

Third...The media does not scream long and hard at BC Ferries demanding to know what actually happened, second-by-second, and how they are actually fixing the propulsion problem...

This is pure lunacy.

Not to mention dangerous.

*I called it a 'crash' above because I agree with Chris Montgomery that calling these things 'hard landings' when you destroy a dock, mash a door, and injure people is pure unadulterated bullshit (although Chris is much more polite with her language than I am).
In addition to 'Tidal Station' and Ms. Montgomery's 'On The Waterfront', Dave at The Galloping Beaver, who points out that the only reason you can read the consultant's reported cited above is because it was rooted out by an FOI request, is also doing the job that the proMedia are not on this issue.



West End Bob said...

The term proMedia is giving them too much credit, RossK.

Corporate Media or perhaps even BoughtandPaidforMedia are much more accurate terms when referring to that crowd.

Your post is right on target. Hopefully, not like the target dock at Duke Point, however . . . .

North Van's Grumps said...

Here's a loophole:

".....has already gone through basic testing on computers and, at a lab in Copenhagen, with a scale model.
The model is used to check for propulsion capability and maneouvrability, based on the requirements of the terminals at Port Hardy, Prince Rupert and Skidegate.
The computers at Flensburger allow designers to take three-dimensional tours through the vessels long before steel is cut, making it easier to spot and correct potential problems."

The model was never tested for a Soft, or Hard landing, at Duke Point!

In other words, once the ship is back up and running with new doors BC Ferries should go up to Port Hardy, Prince Rupert and Skidegate and do a double blind test.... without passengers.

Kim said...


Speaking of postmedia...

Kevin S said...

What I find interesting is on the BC Ferry FOI site the request for information on the vibration from being in the berth in Mode 2,( both the fwd and aft propellers being driven) shows discontinued with no link to any information.
FOI 10-047
Yet if you do a Google search you come up with these two documents.

and as you can see one of the solutions to the vibrations was to have the ship be in Mode 1 while in the berth with just the aft propeller in operation.
You will need to ask BC Ferries what their current pre-arrival and in the berth procedures are.

Kevin S said...

Ignore my last comment, looking at the wrong link.

RossK said...


I don't know if I would go that far....But then again there was the following, from the illustrious member of the proMedia of which you speak, Mr. Keith Baldrey, after the Queen of the North sinking:

"Early last Wednesday morning - just after 2 a.m. - my home phone rang. That's usually a reason for concern - the first thing that springs to mind is a family emergency somewhere. But this call was about another kind of emergency.

"Keith, it's Dave Hahn. Sorry about the early call, but I thought you should know. One of our vessels has just gone down north of Vancouver Island. I'm trying to get an update on the passengers. I'll keep you informed, but I thought you might want to get going on this."

It was a startling phone call, to say the least. Startling because the ferry had only sunk about an hour before, startling because of the potential magnitude of the ferry disaster, and startling because of the forthrightness of the man who runs BC Ferries.

Mr. Hahn and I talked several more times in the early hours of that morning. He would phone with updates - the most important of which was about the state of the passengers - and try to provide as much information as possible.

As the morning went on, he started appearing seemingly everywhere - one minute on CKNW, the next moment on CBC Radio, the next on Global TV. BC Ferries had hastily chartered a plane to fly Mr. Hahn and Premier Gordon Campbell to Prince Rupert to meet the Queen of the North's passengers. He invited me and a Global cameraman to accompany them....

{snippety doo-dah}

...It's a refreshing approach from the head of a large company, and one that I suspect resonates well with the general public..."

So there you have it.

Spinning specific proMedia members, right out of the gate, is the way to 'resonate' with the public in this province.

As opposed to, say, doing real things that actually reduce the risk of bad things happening and then doing things to make sure they don't happen again after they do happen)


RossK said...

Thanks for the info NVG--

Would be interesting to hear from someone in the know why they wouldn't model that berth.

(eg. was it really the intention to have those big, speedy boats run exclusively on those lower traffic 'touristy' runs?)


West End Bob said...

That resonating sound you hear is the sound of a free and impartial press going down the drain . . . .

RossK said...

Gotcha Kim--

And I agree that 'postMedia' is a nice way to shorten the 'Post-Modern Media' moniker.


RossK said...

Kevin S--

Can you fill us in on what, exactly, this actually means if it were indeed the case?

For example does having the one prop running increase or decrease the chances of failure if there was a pitch control regulation problem during docking?



Anonymous said...

You are making the assumption that the "crash" was caused by a failure in the pitch control.

None of us know that yet.

Kevin S said...

The term CPP refers to a controllable pitch propeller system. The captain controls the pitch using control levers located on the bridge console. To move the propeller pitch to the ahead or forward thrust direction the captain moves the control lever ahead. To move the propeller pitch to the astern or reverse thrust direction the captain moves the control lever backward. With the control lever in the centre position the directional thrust of the propeller in basic in neutral, not going ahead or astern.
The CCP system can fail, mechanically such as a hydraulic hose breaking or electrically with a failure of power to the hydraulic pump or a failure in the control system.
To deal with these failures back systems and procedures are put in place.
Should electrical power to the main hydraulic pump failure the corresponding loss in oil pressure at the CPP will cause an alarm to sound both in the engine room and on the bridge and the back-up hydraulic pump will start and take over supplying hydraulic oil to the CPP system.
Should a control failure occur an alarm will sound on the bridge and engine room, the captain can take over control of the CPP using the backup system which bypasses the control circuit and works directly on the CPP solenoids. The captain can carry this out himself from the bridge or ask the engineer's to take over control in the engine room and operate the CPP system from there.
The engineers can also operate the CPP locally from the drive motor space, taking directions from the captain.
The shaft operating the failed CPP can also be simply stopped, from the bridge or from the engineer's console.
The purpose of an outside consultant to give a different perspective on the vessel's construction and systems, this assists the ship owners own quality control team to take a second look to ensure back-up systems and procedures are in place to make the vessel as safe as possible.
Ask any of the ship's officers and they will give you the same explanation as I have, professional sailors know their ships, their weakness and strengths and they know what is the best course of action should a system fail.

I would suggest all vehicles on the road today are operating with a fatal flaw, while the vehicle has 4 wheels should it loose one of them there is a good change the vehicle might veer into the opposite lane or over the edge of the road and the passenger suffer harm. To make the vehicles safe I suggest there be two tires on each axle. But taking a risk based approach to the one wheel per axle one would see I am over reacting.

Anonymous said...

Kevin S: You seem to know a lot about these ferries and systems. Can I ask you this: is it possible for both the "control" system, if that's the word, to fail, and for the backup systems you describe to fail too? Is it possible in general (not asking you to solve this recent crash) for the backups to fail too, I'm asking.
Thank you.

Kevin S said...

As with everything there is not 100% redundancy so it is possible that in that area where redundancy is either not physically possible or extremely cost prohibitive that a failure may occur.
That is why sometimes the response is to isolate the failed piece of equipment or system.
The tough question is, is it safer to run both props in the dock, one at the stern and the one at the bow, to allow the captain to dump the failed prop and still have control with the other prop. The ship is also held into the berth with self tensioning lines.
As the readers are well aware the loading and unloading of the ferry is considered a critical operation that is why such attention is paid by both the ship and shore crews for any indication of a hiccup that would call for all traffic to be stopped until the captain clears the ship safe to restart the loading.
Running twice as much equipment allows for twice as much room for human and mechanical failure but also allows for redundancy.

So the short answer is I am not sure which is best.
I would tend to go with both props available to the captain to use as required.
The best person to answer that would be a captain, I am an engineer. (retired)

Anonymous said...

Thanks again Kevin.
I understand the idea that redundancy may not always be possible for design or financial reasons.
I also understand what you say about isolation and the question of the props.
My question was different (I think).
It was: where redundancy has been possible, and has been built in on something like the Coastal Inspiration's "control" system (just for an example, I am assuming without knowing that there was a backup on that ferry), is it possible that the system failed, and then the emergency backup failed too? Kind of a simple minded question, but I am wondering. It may be an obvious thing to an engineer, but not to myself.
Thank you.

Kevin S said...

The final step in the movement of the propeller blades is by hydraulic oil pressure. If I recall correctly a failure in one of the hoses would cause the system to fail, that is not be able to be controlled remotely. But their is a valving arrangement inside the CPP system that locks the blades in their last position. The power could then be shed and the propeller brought to stop. Again unless my memory fails me there is also the ability to mechanically move the pitch but this can not be carried out as part of a quick response plan.

You must remember the captain still has the opposite end's propeller to use to slow down the vessel with.

Incidents normally are not limited to one failure or miscalculation, it normally is a combination of events. For example just being hypothetical: the vessel is approaching the berth a little quicker than normal, there is some type of failure with the CPP system, the captain takes too long to implement an emergency response, without previously experiencing that type of failure sometimes it takes a second to digest what is happening and finally the distance off the berth does not give enough time for back up procedures to be implemented and be effective.

So it is not just one thing but a series of hiccups that if one of them was overcome the vessel wouldn't have hit the berth with such force.

All the above is pure speculation I do not have information to what happened.

With the vessel fitted with a VDR (ship's black box) what happened should be readily available, why it happened may take a little longer to determine.

The VDR will show the radar plot, engine orders and responses, verbal dialogue on the bridge, helm orders,vessel speed and much more.


RossK said...

For Anon-Up-Thread

Here is what I actually wrote:

"appears to have perhaps"

Which is precisely why I then made the point that the media should be asking what happened precisely, second-by-second.


RossK said...

Thanks very much for the further explanation Kevin S.

Is it reasonable to conclude, based on your explanation that reporters should be asking, specifically, if there was an alarm that indicated a CPP failure?

Thanks again.


Kevin S said...

They should ask what did the VDR show, the speed of approach, the voyage track, the time and type of any alarms, the time and type of response to the alarms.
The position of the control handles, both forward and aft props.
But then the concern is without a proper discussion of the information put forth and any mitigating circumstances the conclusion drawn is not 100% accurate.
That is why the need to wait for the report, which shouldn't take all day. Like I said before the cause if a failure in one of the systems may never been found, a software glitch, a small particle of debris in the hydraulic system, can be hard to locate.

RossK said...

Kevin S.

And, in your opinion, given the issues raised by yourselves and others, should the sister ship be in operation prior to the tabling of said report?


Kevin S said...

With the original group of Captains' and Chief Engineers' knowledge of the vessel's system, it design, construction, back-up systems, normal operating and emergency operating procedures, shipboard familiarization, FMEA program I did not see any safety issues.

The opportunity safety issues from a relaxing of the familiarization and knowledge the original crews received on the vessel comes down the line when the vessel has to earn its keep. You can not realistically take a ship out of service for a couple of days while you run the new captain through emergency scenarios.
This weakness in the familiarization training program was brought to the attention of the training department and as far as I am aware the training department now has a bridge simulator that can be setup to mimic the majority of the vessels in the fleet. This way the new captain and deck officers can practice emergency maneuvers and procedures.

BC Ferries would be the people to ask about their simulator program.

RossK said...

Thanks very much Kevin.

After weighing the presented evidence, it is my opinion that BC Ferries must present definitive evidence, right now, that the Duke Point crash was not caused, in whole or in part, with problems in pitch control. If they cannot, it is also my opinion, again as a lay person, that the Coastal ships should not be sailing until a full, complete and independent investigation has been completed.

*Of course, as a lay person who is not expert in these matters such as yourself I am also very open to standing corrected if additional convincing evidence is presented by a party other than BC Ferries.