News release

Insufficient maintenance led to March 2015 sinking of tug Syringa, off Sechelt, British Columbia

Richmond, British Columbia, 25 February 2016 – In its investigation report (M15P0037) released today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) determined that a lack of adequate maintenance led to the 18 March 2015, sinking of the tug Syringa north of Merry Island, British Columbia. The tug had been towing the barge Matcon 1 (which was released before the sinking) when it took on water and sank. The two crew members swam ashore and were later picked up by the Canadian Coast Guard. A small quantity of diesel fuel was released from the tug after it sank, and the barge was later recovered by another tug.

The investigation determined that the tug sank because it was not maintained sufficiently to prevent down-flooding into the hull during the voyage. Further, a lack of a functioning high-level bilge alarm deprived the crew of an early warning of water ingress.

The investigation also identified a number of issues related to emergency preparedness: the master had not been provided with procedures for the safe operation of the vessel or for dealing with emergencies; the crew members had not participated in emergency drills; the life jackets and exposure suits were stowed in a location not easily accessible; and the life raft had not undergone its mandatory annual servicing in 2014.

Effective safety management requires organizations to identify and manage risks associated with their operations, but the Syringa was not required by regulation to have a formal safety management system (SMS). The TSB has identified safety management and oversight as a Watchlist issue. The TSB is calling on Transport Canada (TC) to implement regulations requiring all operators in the marine industries to have formal safety management processes and TC must oversee these companies’ safety management processes.

Additionally, TC is currently not required to inspect or issue inspection certificates to tugs less than 15 of gross tonnage (GT), and these vessels are not required to operate under an SMS. The onus is on the authorized representative (AR) to ensure compliance with the regulations, and there is minimal regulatory oversight to identify shortcomings in the event ARs are not fulfilling their responsibilities. The Board is concerned that, without adequate oversight by TC, shortcomings in the safety management and operation of tugs less than 15 GT may not be addressed. The Board will continue to monitor this situation with a view to assessing the need for further safety action on this issue.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-994-8053