Friday, December 30, 2011

The Sister.


When the German-built 'Coastal Inspiration' crashed into the dock at Duke Point last week BC Ferries spokesthingy Deborah Marshall told us not to worry our pretty little heads about it because:

A) BC Ferries hardly has any 'hard landings' at all (i.e. only about a dozen per year).


B) The other German-built sister ship, 'The Coastal Renaissance' would keep on keepin' on to help take up the slack.

And, as can be seen above, the Coastal Renaissance is doing that, running on one of the busiest weekends of the year when the weather can be its worst and when, at least some of the time, the ship figures to be full to bursting with 300 plus vehicles (which is way more than the 100 cars that were on the 'Inspiration' when it crashed).


According media member and self-confessed sometimes BC Ferries spokesthingy Mr. Keith Baldrey everything's gonna be alright because....

The most recent crash will be investigated and perhaps lessons will be learned from it and that will be that (until the next serious hard landing or accident).

Yes, you read that right.

Mr. Sometimes Spokesthingy actually said 'until the next serious hard landing or accident' as if:

A) It is just bound to happen


B) When it does it will have nothing to with/completely uncoupled from the crash just past.

But here's the thing.....

We were also told by the official BC Ferries spokesthingy (that would be Ms. Marshall, not Mr. Baldrey) that the 'preliminary' indication was that the crash of the other sister was caused by an 'electrical' malfunction on the bridge and that any potential 'contributing factors' would be uncovered by the investigation mentioned by the sometimes spokesthingy above:

...Although an electronic failure in Coastal Inspiration's bridge equipment appears to be the cause of the accident, there will be a full investigation to see if there were contributing factors, (official BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah) Marshall said...

Which is all fine and good.

But that is a whole lot of 'spokesthingy talk' and very little actual talk from, people that, you know, actually know something about matters merchant marine in general, and Coastal Inspiring specifically.

But, thanks to the digging of folks like the merchant mariner who owns the blog 'Tidal Station, it has been established that a consultant for BC Ferries had concerns about the design choice of the system that the controls of the 'pitch' of the propellers of BOTH German-built sister ships that, if it failed could contribute to a ramming because the boats were being pushed forward rather than backwards at the dock.

And a ramming of the dock is what appears to have happened at Duke Point last week based on passenger statements in the media and the comments blogger Chris Montgomery elicited from crew members who were on the scene.

And then, subsequently, a commenter, Kevin S., who is a retired engineer that was involved in the propeller control design choice, helped explain all this to us. He also made it clear that there are a number of fail-safes built into the system that should have prevented any loss of pitch control that could have sent the ship into the ship ramming into the dock if there was, indeed, a loss of control due to the an electrical failure.

However, Mr. S. also noted that a document on the BC Ferries FOI site indicates that the ships may have been running only one of their props rather than two during docking to decrease vibration, noise and prop-wash which could (and we stress 'could' here) have decreased the effectiveness of any and all fail safes.


And then there are a couple of more non-spokesthingy things to consider....

First, as Ms. Montgomery noted, according to passenger reports and folks on the scene the Coastal Inspiration was 'not powering backward to slow it down' when it hit the dock, hard, which is precisely what the pitch control should have done if it was operating correctly.

Second, Mr. Tidal Station, reported that there had been a pitch control problem on one of the Celebration ships at least once before, but in the particular case he knew of it occurred far enough from shore that engineers were able to correct things manually before anything untoward happened at the dock.



Given the weight of all the non-spokesthingy information cited above, I feel strongly that the following question must be asked:

What evidence, does BC Ferries have that the propellor pitch control system did NOT contribute to the crash of the Coastal Inspiration at Duke Point?

Why do I ask this?

Because if they do not have darned good, solid evidence that they can share with the public right now (i.e. immediately), I am of the opinion that the Celebration ships (and that includes the 'Coastal Celebration' running on Route 1 this weekend) should NOT be sailing with vulnerable passengers on board until a complete, thorough and independent investigation is complete and any and all design issues with the propeller pitch control system have been ruled out entirely.


Because more than just a dock and a ferry door were injured in the Duke Point crash.

And next time, especially if the ferry is full with more than three times the cargo weight (in vehicles and people in them) on board, the injuries could be much, much worse.


I would be remiss if I did not also mention that Kevin S. and Dave from the Galloping Beaver, another merchant mariner, had a most interesting and heated discussion about design v. safety at Chris M'.s place, here.



West End Bob said...

On a relevant topic:

Are you, C., the two Ees and the Whack-a-doodle safe and sound back on the mainland via BC Ferries yet, RossK?

If so, great. If not: Safe landings . . . .

islandpapa said...

This is copied from an email I received a couple of days ago...unable to find it in the Nanaimo News. Any truth to it??

> Comment from the Nanaimo News:
> Thu, Dec 22, 11 at 12:44 PM
> The docking approach speeds on the Coastal Class ferries are
> much too high,
> often five or more knots as you enter the docking area.
> They are all
> competing to get AN annual $2500 FUEL SAVING AWARD. To save
> fuel, they
> engage the forward propellor as late as possible ( this take 2
> minutes ).
> These are the brakes, Some are obsessed with their fuel figures.
> The winner
> of the award last year was, you guessed it, from Duke Point.

RossK said...

Coming back this weekend Bob--

Will be in contact.


Thanks IP--

Will be interesting to see if any of the mariners weigh in.


Norm Farrell said...

This and the Harbour Air incident displayed willingness for corporate media to employ Orwellian Newspeak.

The BC Ferries crash was a "hard landing" and the the emergency dive into the drink experienced by Harbour Air after a half century old single-engine Otter lost power was a "soft landing."

Disasters narrowly averted should not be painted over with disguises. We need to treat them seriously so that chances of further failures are reduced.

RossK said...