BC Ferries claims equipment at fault for 2011 dock crash

BC Ferries is suing the manufacturer of a control system that it says failed to prevent a crash at Duke Point in 2011.

TSB blamed 2011 crash that shut down Duke Point terminal for months partly on bridge crew's error

Crew members inspect the areas of impact after the BC Ferries vessel Coastal Inspiration made a hard landing while trying to dock at Duke Point in Nanaimo on Dec. 20, 2011. (Ron Forsythe/CBC)

BC Ferries is suing the German manufacturer of a control system that it says failed to prevent a crash at the Duke Point terminal in Nanaimo in 2011.

Two years ago, the Coastal Inspiration ferry made a "hard landing," as BC Ferries called it, at the Duke Point dock at 5.6 knots or roughly 10 km/h.

According to the notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court Friday against Germany-based SAM Electronics GmbH, the Dec. 20, 2011 crash caused at least $4 million in damages and associated costs.

A Transportation Safety Board investigation released earlier this year blamed the crash partly on the bridge crew's failure to follow procedures and, in the suit, BC Ferries claims parts of the control system failed and were poorly designed.

BC Ferries claims the crash happened because the bow propeller pitch control didn't respond during docking, primarily because a component in the bow propulsion pitch control system failed due to electromagnetic interference.

BC Ferries also claims the control system lacked redundancies and clear, audible alarms to indicate a system fault. 

Although a "power limited" warning light was on at the time, BC Ferries said the light was often on during routing operating, and the crew didn't notice it had been on for a long period of time the day of the crash. It also said there was no feature alerting the crew that the propeller's pitch was not what was ordered.

Finally, BC Ferries claims that, owing to the design of the control system, the crew regularly used an emergency switch when docking, and that the colour scheme and design of the buttons, switches and indicators were confusing and prone to cause operator error.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

On mobile? Click here to read the notice of claim

With files from the CBC's Jason Proctor


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