The family of two brothers who died when their top-heavy longliner capsized off Newfoundland's northeast coast is pleased with federal changes on vessel design.


The Ryan family says the Ryan's Commander was built high, top-heavy and too short. ((Courtesy Ryan family/CBC))

Joe and Dave Ryan were killed when their newly built vessel, the Ryan's Commander, capsized during a September 2004 storm off Cape Bonavista.

The Ryans commissioned the vessel to fit within federal rules that restrict vessel size for most family-based enterprises to almost 20 metres.

That limit remained in place even as fishermen like the Ryans headed offshore for species like shrimp and crab.

The family said the vessel was built high, top-heavy and too short in order to meet federal requirements. The 2004 sinking sparked a public outcry over vessel design and safety.

Federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn announced a more flexible approach to vessel design last week while unveiling a federal-provincial plan to rejuvenate the fishing industry.


Ken Ryan believes his brothers would still be alive if their vessel was longer and more stable. ((CBC))

"Are we happy? Yes, in one senseā€¦ there is change coming," said Ken Ryan, who believes his brothers would still be alive if they had been in a longer, more stable boat.

"In another sense, it was a sad day, because it should have been sooner. This regulation should have been changed many, many years ago."

The plan Hearn unveiled will allow fishermen to use vessels upto about 27 metres.

Hearn said the regulation change comes as a direct response to concerns of fishermen.

"I spent much of last year talking to fishermen, and my provincial counterparts, about what needs to be done, so here is the opportunity to do what they have wanted to do for a long time," Hearn said.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada determined, in a report released last November, that vessel design and poor handling were critical factors in the Ryan's Commander disaster.

The estates of Joe and Dave Ryan, meanwhile, are suing the federal government and the makers of the vessel, arguing its design was unsafe and untrustworthy. The shipbuilder has blamed crew negligence in the matter, which remains before Newfoundland Supreme Court.