Queen of the Deep, huh, North

Boy you are quick on the ball there JK. Its good to have you onside.

Indeed something going on, I said to myself as I drove home this morning, past the BC Ferries Company headquarters in Victoria BC, there was the local news media satellite trucks parked in the front and several people lined outside. I thought to myself, oh great, not another fare hike. Little did I know it was much worst, and checking The Monitor blog, JK was already on it.

According to the media and from the press release, 37 year old Queen of the North seemed to have struck a rock of Gill Island in Wright Sound and completely sunk in somewhat rapid and dramatic sequence, suggesting a full speed grounding.

The initial press release from BC ferries states that all 101 pax were reported off the 8,806GT ship, and in relative safety, onboard the CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and in the small coastal native village of Hartley Bay, registered population of 605. Some have since been transferred to Prince Rupert Hospital.

From the aerial footage of the scene, the Laurier and the Fisheries Research vessel WE Ricker can be seen meddling in the oil slick left from the wreck. It would appear that the ship "(he) hit Gil Island" stated my source. There is plenty of room in that part of the channel and at that particular time, the ship should had at least one bridge officer on duty, and one helmsperson. I understand it is also customary to have another lookout as well.

My source hinted that the mate may have been in the fleet for a long time, but may have been recently promoted, in a similar fashion to the accident with the Queen of Oak Bay which loss power just shortly before running down a marina at Horseshoe Bay near Vancouver. With that much sea room, and on an established, routine run, I would speculate human error or faulty steering gear / autopilot. This story is certain to have a tremendous impact on the coast.

I remember hearing about Transport Canada giving a waiver for the ship to sail without a two compartment standard of flooding survivability (Solas90) when most other ships came under scrutiny after the tragic loss of the Estonia. I am sure the Department will be pressured to assure the second, smaller, Queen of Prince Rupert, will meet all safety regs to the fullest, if they don’t outright ground her, pardon the expression. These accidents seem to be getting more serious in nature and will surely bring into focus the "forgotten industry" to the forefront quickly, hopefully before something bigger happens.

I don’t know how much longer the Canadian Coast Guard can get lucky by having a ship in close proximity as it happened this morning. The Laurier is a big ship and the best suited for our coast so it was nice to see them on scene in relatively short time, kudos to the crew, I know quite a few of them. With the recent reduction in SAR zones, from three to two and of course cutting one ship, a ship may still be in the SAR zone - officially, but may be over 30 hrs away. So indeed it was a stroke of good luck and I am sure the direction breathing big a sigh of relief. But with the long lasting and massive cuts in budget, and subsequent loss of assets, how much luck can they get. Maybe they won’t be so lucky when a cruise ship gets into trouble.

Then this accident is bound to affect BC Ferries. They recently announced plans to build replacement vessels, so now I guess those plans will have to be fast forwarded. Better do it soon, the important tourist season is toast this year for sure, but I am sure the coastal communities will not be too pleased about their lack of contact with the outside world either. Then again the tug and barge fleet, since we have no coasting fleet whatsoever, might be please to pick up the business; activating the old junk to cover the slack. Should be interesting. I guess there will be many more jobs available at the TSB.

I’m sure this accident will have far and wide repercussion. It should.

Martin Leduc
March 22, 2006

By the way, the local television media coverage has been quite extensive and seems to be very good. Here are some of the stations covering it. As JK said it earlier, it is a smalll marine community in Canada, and allot of recognizable faces from the coast here were featured.
Telus, CTV, CBC

You can see many pictures of the ship, on Kevin Stapelton’s BC Ferries website.