News release

Lack of safety management cited in August 2016 whale-watching accident in Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park

Québec, Quebec, 27 March 2018 – The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) today released its report (M16C0137) into the August 2016 collision between the passenger vessel C03097QC and an unidentified object near Les Bergeronnes, Quebec. The report identifies safety deficiencies in local whale-watching operations in the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park.

On 29 August 2016, the rigid-hull inflatable passenger vessel C03097QC, also known as Aventure 6, was transiting the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park during a marine mammal observation tour with nine people on board, when it collided with an unidentified object, possibly a whale. Two people, including the vessel operator, were thrown overboard and other passengers were injured during this accident. The vessel's outboard engines were damaged during the collision.

The investigation found that the attention necessary to carry out all of the tasks required of the operator, including conducting the tour and monitoring the vessel's speed and position, resulted in the operator not seeing a nearby whale. As the vessel reached the speed of 21.6 knots, it collided with an unidentified object. Due to its speed, the vessel kept moving ahead after the initial impact, and the skegs of both outboard engines also collided with the object. The impacts threw the two people overboard, and shut down the engine power. Since the passengers were unfamiliar with the use and operation of the vessel's equipment, they were unable to deploy the lifebuoy and pyrotechnics, and did not know how to broadcast a distress call. One passenger called 911 from a cell phone and another managed to restart one engine and manoeuver the vessel to retrieve the people overboard.

There is no regulatory requirement for the owning company of the Aventure 6 to have a formal safety management system. Safety management and oversight is a Watchlist 2016 issue. As this occurrence demonstrates, some companies consider safety to be adequate as long as they are in compliance with minimum regulatory requirements. However, regulations alone cannot foresee and account for all of the risks unique to a particular operation or industry.

In June 2017, following the 2015 capsizing of the whale-watching vessel Leviathan II, the TSB recommended to Transport Canada (M17-02) that it require commercial passenger vessel operators to adopt explicit risk management processes, and that it develop comprehensive guidelines to assist with the implementation and oversight of those processes. The response to this recommendation has not yet been assessed.

Following the occurrence, the TSB sent a safety letter to the vessel owner concerning deficient and missing shipboard safety equipment and other safety issues. A copy was sent to federal and provincial regulators, and to five other companies operating in the local marine mammal observation industry. In response, the vessel owner made safety equipment upgrades, and updated its standard pre-departure passenger briefing to include information that was previously missing.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail 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

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