The absence of a safety management system has been found to be a common factor in a series of marine accident investigations, as observed by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB).
Over the last decade or so, investigations by the TSB into the cause of marine accidents, indicate that organisations that don’t adequately manage their safety risks, with a Safety Management System are putting their lives (and that of passengers and crew) in danger.
While the marine transport industry is highly regulated, under Canadian law, not all vessels are required to operate within a Safety Management System. While passenger vessels on an international voyage carrying more than 12 passengers must have a formal safety management system in place, this rule does not apply to vessels undertaking marine tourism activities. This is demonstrated in an incident with the Leviathan II, a whale watching vessel, which capsized in 2015, resulting in the death of six passengers. While the vessel was fitted out with all the appropriate Transport Canada (TC) mandated equipment, including life jackets, personal flotation devices, life rafts and flares, as well as valid TC inspection certificates, by law, it was not required to have a Safety Management System in place.
As reported by TSB, over the last decade or so, there seems to have been minimal progress on expanding the application of safety management systems to include a broader range of companies and enterprises.
The above mentioned incident, alongside other tragic marine accidents, including the sinking and subsequent drowning of four passengers aboard the Lady Duck, in 2002, a passenger vessel built using a converted Ford F-350 truck chassis, have prompted TSB to make further recommendations to Transport Canada, in order to ensure that all small passenger vessel enterprises all operate with a Safety Management System. This is aimed at addressing any safety deficiencies (either from inadequate crew training, unsafe operating procedures, lack of emergency preparedness or lack of a safety management system) as a means of managing risks and avoiding the likelihood of accidents like these occurring in the first place.
Incidents like these illustrate the mentality of some small vessel operations, that seek to provide passengers with a thrilling and exciting experience, yet do not always place safety as their number one consideration.
Recent incidents, such as the capsizing and sinking of the Bessie E., about 80 kilometres north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont, are further evidence that a lack of compliance, or operating with minimal compliance, are putting their lives (and that of passengers and crew) in danger.
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