Speeches

The Canadian Board of Marine Underwriters Annual General Meeting
Speaking Notes for
Jonathan Seymour

Board Member
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
to The Canadian Board of Marine Underwriters
Annual General Meeting
(Claims ans Loss Prevention Committee)
Toronto, Ontario
November 22, 2005

Thank you for those kind words of introduction, and many thanks to the Canadian Board of Marine Underwriters for inviting me to join you today. I know that many of you heard Charles Simpson, our outgoing Chairman at the Transportation Safety Board, when he addressed your meeting in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec. He spoke to you about our mutual interest in promoting a strong safety culture at sea, in Canadian waters and abroad.

I share the Chairman's view that the Canadian Board of Marine Underwriters is an organization with strong links to our work at the TSB. Your work revolves around assessing risk and ensuring against loss and injury. Our work is about assessing transportation occurrences in order to avoid their repeat.

Your organization and individual marine underwriters have a specific place or role on the safety continuum -a term we use to characterize the spectrum of people and organizations associated with safety in Canada.

The continuum encompasses the travelling public and business interests - who want assurances about safety. It stretches through the manufacturing and shipping industries, engages safety experts at every level, includes the federal regulator who sets the ground rules, and the TSB - the organization with an exclusive mandate to investigate transportation accidents - marine, air, rail and pipeline.

We are uniquely positioned to give you solid information to work with. The TSB is an independent federal body that investigates accidents within the federally regulated transportation sector, solely for the purpose of advancing safety. We make our investigative reports public and our process is straightforward - we examine what happened; why it happened; and we make recommendations about how to prevent it from happening again.

My message to you today is that you can help build awareness among your clients of evolving safety standards and expectations - with a view to improving their safety track record.

As we become more proficient at identifying causes and contributing factors in marine accidents, you will have access to more information - information that can act as red flags when you assess risk exposure.

As business people, you are no doubt looking to reduce your losses, improve the performance of your sector, and enhance the precision of your risk assessments.

We'd like to convince you that you need to embrace your role in the safety continuum and your role in communicating safety information to mariners. It serves your interests and it contributes to the creation of a robust safety culture in this country.

For our part, the TSB will continue to provide you with information to help you understand where the safety vulnerabilities lie. Before you extend cover, we know you want to confirm that a vessel is seaworthy and will be handled by competent, well-trained mariners.

In the course of our investigations, we routinely identify marine safety issues in vessel construction, safety protocols and, of course, the human element. On Canada's coasts, our lakes and rivers, the TSB analyzes a variety of occurrences and suggests preventative strategies and tactics.

As I have said, TSB investigation reports and safety communications represent a treasure trove of valuable information for you as marine underwriters.

Allow me to walk you through a few of our investigations and show you want I mean. I have a few more visuals to share with you as well. You can find more detail about these and other investigations on this site.

You'll see that my focus today is on the smaller vessels - and primarily small commercial fishing vessels - a major client group for some of you.

Cap Rouge II

Let me now turn to the Cap Rouge II, a casualty that captured the headlines and saddened our hearts just a few years ago.

In August 2002, the small fishing vessel Cap Rouge II capsized near the entrance to the main arm of the Fraser River in British Columbia. Two persons abandoned ship successfully. Five others, including two children, remained within the overturned hull and drowned.

The Cap Rouge II had a reputation as a wet boat. Lightly loaded at the time, and in moderate seas, water was being shipped and retained on deck. Deteriorated seals on the weather deck manhole covers allowed water below. The fuel tanks, water tanks and the fish holds were all partially full. The resulting free surface effect overcame her residual righting ability, and over she went.

Since being built in 1974, the vessel had been modified extensively; this included the addition of a stern ramp, net handling gear, cargo equipment, and other items. For this voyage, a heavy west coast seine net was also added. These modifications progressively reduced her transverse stability, leading directly to this tragic accident.

None of these modifications had been monitored or assessed by a suitably qualified person. Nor were they brought to the attention of Transport Canada inspectors between or during routine quadrennial inspections (as required by regulation).

Our investigation report into the Cap Rouge II contained three recommendations relating to small fishing vessels. Firstly, stability data approval for all new vessels; secondly, basic stability testing for all existing vessels; and thirdly, measures to address unsafe working practices.

Ryan's Commander

Many of you will know that the TSB is investigating the capsizing of the Ryan's Commander. This happened off the coast of Newfoundland in the fall of 2004. Almost brand new and ready to bring good fortune and prosperity to the port of St. Brendan's on Cottel Island, just off the north shore. The 1.7 million dollar Ryan's Commander encountered rough seas and appears to have fallen prey to a serious stability problem. She capsized, taking two lives and putting other crew members through a harrowing rescue.

Our report is not finalized. But yesterday, the TSB released an interim recommendation. We have done so because we have identified a recurring safety deficiency that warrants urgent remedial action. I should point out that we were prompted to do this because we've raised it before - most recently in our Cap Rouge II investigation report.

Yet, just last year, the Ryan's Commander succumbed to a similar fate. Since the Cap Rouge II occurrence, the TSB has initiated investigations into five capsizing accidents: the Hope Bay, Prospect Point, Melina and Keith II, the Ocean Tor and Ryan's Commander. These accidents have resulted in considerable loss of property and, much more importantly, eleven lives.

Since 1990, the TSB has investigated more than 80 accidents involving small fishing vessels that capsized, foundered or sank. The predominant cause was inadequate intact stability or stability-related unsafe working practices. Few of these vessels were required by regulation to meet any stability standard.

Our research shows that 150 small fishing vessels have been built since 2004, but less than five per cent have submitted stability data to Transport Canada for approval.

Transport Canada is in the process of changing its regulations and will require more stringent stability reporting for vessels under 24 metres in length. However, these new Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations are not now expected to be in force before 2007.


In 2003, consequent to the Cap Rouge II, the TSB recommended - in the interim, and prior to new regulation - that Transport Canada ensure that all new, inspected small fishing vessels of closed construction be required to submit stability data for approval. Just yesterday, we reiterated our position, and urged Transport Canada to take action right now.

Further, in 2003, the TSB recommended that Transport Canada require that all existing inspected small fishing vessels - currently without any approved stability data - be subjected to a roll period test, and corresponding freeboard verification not later than their next quadrennial inspection. This recommendation was also reiterated yesterday.

But, while waiting for an effective response, we continue to live with a situation in Canada where this valuable data are not always collected and these tests are not applied. No stability data for the Ryan's Commander was submitted for approval. The vessel's stability was not fully assessed. Nonetheless, it was granted a steamship inspection certificate by Transport Canada.

While we appreciate that Transport Canada is aware of this issue and is endeavouring to bring new regulations into force through due process, the TSB is once again urging immediate implementation.

Section 48 of the existing Small Fishing Vessel Inspection Regulations (for example - and, as a rule, we are never this prescriptive) allows Transport Canada's inspectors to require any test to satisfy themselves that a vessel is seaworthy for its intended purpose. This, in conjunction with existing stability guidelines, provides an effective opportunity to identify those vessels most at risk and for which stability data should be submitted for approval.

I have to tell you that it is discouraging to me, personally, that these issues continue to plague our fisheries all across Canada. As a Board, we are hopeful, however, that everyone concerned will now step up to the plate, and address this issue without further delay.

Having vented, now, let me go back a bit. And talk about safety culture in the fishing industry, and some really positive stuff.

Alex B.1

Following our investigation of the flooding of the Alex B.1, off Havre-Saint-Pierre in September 2001, the TSB recommended that Transport Canada work with other partners, such as Fisheries and Oceans Canada, fisher associations and training institutions, to develop a national strategy for establishing, maintaining and promoting a safety culture within the fishing industry.

This concept was extended in the Cap Rouge II, when we recommended the development of a code of best practices for small fishing vessels, including loading and stability, and that its adoption be encouraged through effective education and awareness programs. As you can see, these proposals are focused on changing attitudes and nurturing a safety culture within the fishing community.

Kella-Lee

But the occurrence, I must mention, is the sinking of the Kella-Lee because it has had really interesting ramifications for those of us with a safety mandate in Canada.

In the fall of 2001, while returning from the fishing grounds, the Kella-Lee encountered heavy seas off Cape Scott, British Columbia. She heeled to starboard, progressively downflooded and sank. Her four crew members abandoned the vessel. Two succumbed to hypothermia and drowned.

Subsequent TSB findings revealed that the Kella-Lee had been modified and that those modifications had not been noted or checked by inspectors for many years.

Our report noted that surveys and follow-up by insurance companies could complement the inspection requirements of Transport Canada and the Workers' Compensation Board, and foster safety.

The Kella-Lee is especially interesting because it really motivated the regional safety community to focus collectively on safety awareness in the West Coast fisheries.

Between January 2001 and the loss of the Kella-Lee later that fall, we had assessed a total of 24 occurrences involving small fishing vessels on the Pacific Coast. These occurrences included fires, capsizings, sinkings, floodings and groundings.

In light of these happenings, and following the loss of the Kella Lee, an inter-agency Marine Action Group (the MAG) was created with the mandate to promote safety awareness, provide safety education and foster safe operating practices within the marine community.

The MAG is an interdisciplinary wonder. (bureaupathology) It comprises Transport Canada; the TSB; the Workers' Compensation Board of B.C.; Fisheries and Oceans (Fisheries Management); the Canadian Coast Guard, which also represents the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and Marine Communications and Traffic Services; the Office of Boating Safety; and the B.C. Seafood Alliance.


The MAG's objective is to reduce the high accident rate, often resulting in death or injury to crew in the marine industries.

For now, the MAG operates on the West Coast only (is it a model for other regions?). It has limited jurisdiction. But it does work.

One of the greatest challenges is to convey to fishers what we have learned in our investigations. Bear in mind that we are dealing with individuals who tend to be fiercely independent and are comfortable in their own competency.

To give you a little flavour…

"Personal-floatation-devices get in the way."

"If you fall over board, you're a gonner anyway."

"I know how stable she is through the balls of my feet."

"TC inspections are to be avoided."

"I don't belong to an official representative body."

"What's a Ship Safety Bulletin, anyway?"

Because of the MAG, some things are changing: talking to wives, families and communities. Giving them the straight goods - telling them their loved ones might not be coming back if they don't listen and adapt, demonstrating the insidious effect of free surface with a scale model, and producing booklets in their mother tongue - easily obtainable booklets that don't require access to the Internet.

And, on another level completely: getting Fisheries and Oceans and Transport Canada to compare the list of fish boats with herring and capelin licences with the list of fish boats that have the stability data required to operate in those fisheries. A real success - this has just happened.

But what other avenues are available? Get underwriters to ask questions before they extend cover? Does your vessel have stability data? Has it been structurally modified? If so, has Transport Canada been informed? Have scheduled TC inspections been performed? Have you got the relevant ship safety bulletins on board? Have all your watertight closures been examined? Are they watertight? Are the right number and sizes of PFDs and survival suits on board? What is your emergency drill program? By now, you are probably getting my drift. . . .

I like to highlight the MAG because it really does demonstrate just how powerful like-minded people can be when they share focus, information, expertise and resolve. I should recognize (with our thanks) that you do have an insurance representative on the MAG. And our marine investigators in B.C. were invited to demonstrate the stability model to your regional group.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I think that we appreciate that unsafe practices are rarely intended to place the vessel and crew at risk. Rather, individuals mean to operate their vessels safely but, for whatever reason, do not fully appreciate the risks involved.

All along the continuum, many people are doing their part to make our national transportation system safer. Out there on the water, however, are people doing the best they can? And are they getting the support they need from us? From you?

Your questions - your challenges - before cover is bound, can play a real role in terms of education and raising awareness. As you take the time to plan for the future of your industry during this annual general meeting, I also hope that you find the time to consider your place, and your role, along this safety continuum.

We have much to gain by working together. Getting safety information out to the people and organizations that can use it is our priority. When you think about it, it is also part of your due diligence. Using it, sharing it, and making decisions based on the best we know about why marine accidents happen. So let's all work together and strive to prevent future losses.

Thank you so much.

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