‘Accidents don’t just happen:’ TSB issues report on tugboat sinking that claimed 2 lives

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) issued recommendations after an investigation into the 2021 fatal B.C. tugboat sinking that claimed two lives.

The sinking of the Ingenika in 2021 killed the boat’s captain Troy Pearson and crew member Charley Cragg.

The two families called for the changes to be implemented immediately.

Judy Carlick-Pearson, the widow of Troy Pearson, said the families would continue fighting to ensure the implementation of the recommendations.

“Fight for the survivors that are out there risking their lives to go on the waters, fight for change, make sure these recommendations are put in place to protect your loved ones that have a passion to be mariners like my son, “ said Carlick-Pearson from Metlakatla First Nation near Prince Rupert.

“Charlie and Troy paid the highest price with their lives to make change happen,” said Genevieve Cragg, mother of Charley Cragg. “These recommendations announced by the board are critical and cannot afford any further delay.”

According to the safety board, the tug sunk in rough weather while towing a barge in the Gardner Canal near Kemano in northern B.C.

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Owned by Wainwright Marine Service Ltd based in Prince Rupert, the Ingenika was in operation for more than 50 years and had no inspection records.

The report also stated that Transport Canada does not certify tugs under 15 gross tonnes or require regular inspections.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Kathy Fox, chair of the TSB, said the systemic failures led to the tragedy.

“Accidents don’t just happen; they are a result of many factors; in this occurrence, inadequate risk management and emergency preparedness, the absence of regulatory oversight and verification of pilotage waiver all played a role,” she said.

“This accident illustrates the tragic outcomes that may result when all involved don’t work together to address potential risks.”

The TSB had two recommendations for Transport Canada in its report.

The first was to “expand its surveillance program to include regular inspections of tugs of 15 gross tonnage or less to verify that these vessels are complying with regulatory requirements.”

The second is to “require authorized representatives of tugs of 15 GT or less to assess the risks present in their operations, including the suitability of their tugs for the specific towing operations they are undertaking.”

The TSB report also had two recommendations for the Pacific Pilotage Authority, the Crown corporation responsible for licensed pilots on certain Canadian waters.

The Pacific Pilotage Authority has a  waiver system where companies obtain waivers that can exempt vessels from having a licensed pilot onboard.

The safety board found that Ingenika had this exemption for licensed pilots. The TSB also found similar waivers for the Ocean Monarch and Nathan E. Stewart, both vessels involved in significant incidents on the coast of B.C. in the last decade.

The first recommendation for the pilotage authority was “verify that eligibility requirements are met before issuing pilotage waivers to companies operating tugs in compulsory pilotage areas.”

And the second was to “implement a process to verify ongoing compliance with waiver conditions by companies operating tugs in compulsory pilotage areas.”

Both recommendations ensure the pilotage authority confirms licensed pilots were onboard when required or met the waiver conditions to be operating without a licensed pilot.

Federal opposition critic for Transport Canada, NDP MP Taylor Bachrach, gave a fiery response at the news conference calling for immediate action.

“Infuriating to reflect on a government that has known about these shortcomings on safety for years and yet has not acted,” he said. “The measures they put in place have not been effective, they have not been strong enough, voluntary measures are not strong enough, and we need better.

“This is a message for Omar Alghabra, Canada’s transport minister. We demand that you implement all of these recommendations immediately.”

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