April 18, 2008 | Mark Paradies

BC Ferry Captian Fired After a Near Miss – Does this Fix the Root Cause?

The video above shows the BC Ferry Spirit of British Columbia exiting the narrow Active Pass.

On March 17, 2008, the same ferry had a near-miss when they came within 180 meters of a Seaspan ferry that carried trucks. This passing distance was legal but violated BC Ferry policy that does not allow passing of vessels in the narrow south pass entrance.

The reason given for the near-miss was that the BC Ferry miscalculated the speed of the other vessel and arrived at the narrow passage before the other vessel had cleared the entrance to the pass. According to press reports, the vessels were in communication and had planned to pass each other outside the entrance to the pass.

The Captain that was fired was a long time BC Ferry employee who had retired and was brought back to work on a contract basis as a relief captain.

Questions from this “near-miss:”

1. Is this how to handle a near-miss?

2. All agree that a mistake was made, but does the Captain deserve to be fired?

3. What are the root causes of this near-miss?

4. What role did the vessel from Seaspan play? Did it have a similar rule? Or did Seaspan allow passing in the Active Pass entrance?

5. Is the BC Ferry system safer after firing an experienced Captain?

6. Have the root causes of this near-miss been fixed?

This certainly is an interesting maritime near-miss and there may be valuable lessons learned. The problem is that the press statements from BC Ferry and the press reports don’t seem to include much useful information for learning lessons.

If you have any more information about this near-miss and it’s causes or know where to find reports that detail the root causes, leave us a message here.

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