British Columbia

Ship crash in Vancouver harbour blamed on 'systematic failure,' communications 'breakdowns'

Transportation Safety Board finds a 'systematic failure' and miscommunications after a two-year investigation into 2019 collision between two freighter ships in the city's Inner Harbour

Transportation Safety Board releases its report two years after hole torn in anchored ship

The M.V. Pan Acacia anchored in Vancouver Harbour after it was struck by another freighter on March 17, 2019. (Supplied/Transportation Safety Board of Canada)

A federal investigation into two bulk carrier ships that crashed in Vancouver's Inner Harbour two years ago has blamed the collision on "breakdowns in situational awareness and communications."

The Transportation Safety Board released its report into the incident on Thursday. The March 17, 2019, crash saw the ship Caravos Harmony — a 229-metre bulk carrier loaded with 70,000 tonnes of corn — crash into another bulk carrier more than double its weight, the 292-metre, 170,000-tonne bulk carrier Pan Acacia.

The collision tore a hole in the side of the Pan Acacia, which was anchored north of Canada Place in Vancouver's Inner Harbour, according to investigators. At the time, just after midnight, the Caravos Harmony was heading to its own anchorage in Burrard Inlet.

Both vessels were damaged, but there were no injuries or pollution reported in the crash, the TSB noted.  The worst damage was to the Pan Acacia, which was "punctured through" to a cargo hold. The Caravos Harmony suffered "dents and damage" to its bow.

"Breakdowns in situational awareness and communications were key factors," the  Transportation Safety Board of Canada said in a press release. "The investigation … determined that communication breakdowns impacted the team's situational awareness and resulted in different understandings of the emerging circumstances."

A Transportation Safety Board of Canada chart shows the course of the Caravos Harmony that struck and punctured the Pan Acacia, an anchored bulk carrier, in Vancouver's Inner Harbour on March 17, 2019. (Supplied/Transportation Safety Board of Canada)

The key breakdown, investigators found, happened when the Caravos Harmony deployed one of its anchors in order to stop itself from drifting in a current.

Thursday's report also listed "several contraventions" of maritime laws by the Caravos Harmony's operators, including violations of the collision regulations and the Maritime Labour Convention. Those contraventions included a broken indicator for the ship's rudder angle, an error in its compass, and "a systematic failure to apply the International Safety Management (ISM) Code on maintenance and emergency preparedness."

The Caravos Harmony is owned by the Greek firm Octapus Shipping Corp., but is registered in the Marshall Islands. The Panama-flagged Pan Acacia, meanwhile, is owned by POS Maritime, based in South Korea.

The investigation concluded that when "strong current and eddies" in the harbour that night pulled the Caravos Harmony to one side, its pilot and bridge crew "did not share critical information to build a common and accurate team situation awareness," according to the final report's findings.

A close-up image of the hole torn in the side of the ship M.V. Pan Acacia after it was struck. (Supplied/Transportation Safety Board of Canada)

"This impeded timely and effective coordination of actions to safely manoeuvre the vessel and avoid the striking."

The Pan Acacia was anchored overnight in the Port of Vancouver's Anchorage A, on the south side of the Inner Harbour.

The TSB cannot find legal fault in its investigations, but makes conclusions and recommendations for change when transport accidents occur.

In the case of the 2019 collision, the Port of Vancouver changed its rules around where ships can refuel, in order to reduce the traffic further into the harbour.

The M.V. Caravaros Harmony anchored in Vancouver Harbour in 2019 after it hit and damaged another freighter in the harbour. (Supplied/Transportation Safety Board of Canada)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David P. Ball

@davidpball

David P. Ball is a CBC News reporter in Vancouver. Send story tips or ideas to david.ball@cbc.ca, or find him on Twitter @davidpball.

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