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News release

Associated links (M21P0030)

TSB issues four safety recommendations following investigation into 2021 sinking of the tug Ingenika

Richmond, British Columbia, 8 March 2023 — Today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is issuing four recommendations aimed at enhancing the safety of tugs 15 gross tonnage (GT) or less. They are issued as part of the investigation (M21P0030) into the 10 February 2021 sinking of the tug Ingenika in British Columbia (BC), which resulted in the death of two crew members.

While towing a loaded barge in the Gardner Canal near Europa Point, the Ingenika encountered adverse weather conditions which impacted its ability to tow and maintain speed, and eventually led to the vessel taking on water. The master and the two deckhands who were on board were able to exit the sinking vessel; however, only one was able to swim and climb aboard the life raft. Search and rescue resources located the sole surviving crew member on land approximately 10 hours later. The bodies of the master and second deckhand were also recovered.

Since 2015, the TSB has investigated six occurrences involving tugs of 15 GT or less operating on the west coast of Canada that have raised concerns around the adequacy of regulatory surveillance, a systemic safety issue that has been on the TSB Watchlist since 2010.

Recommendations to Transport Canada

Currently, Transport Canada does not certify tugs 15 GT or less, nor are these vessels required to undergo regular inspections. The Ingenika, which had been in operation for over 50 years, had no records of the regulator performing an inspection at any point in the tug’s operational life.

Numerous TSB investigations have found that while vessel owners and operators have the primary responsibility to manage safety, it is vital that Transport Canada provide effective oversight. Although the TSB issued a safety concern to Transport Canada in 2016, the issue of regulatory surveillance for tugs 15 GT or less persists and investigation findings continue to show that without adequate surveillance by the regulator, shortcomings in the safety management and operations of such tugs will continue to go unaddressed, leading to more accidents.

The TSB has also noted that there is currently no requirement for towing companies to assess any of the risks that might be present in their operations. This means that risks in towing operations will continue to go undetected and unmitigated, placing crews, tugs, tows, and the environment at risk.

Therefore, the Board is recommending that the Department of Transport:

Recommendations to the Pacific Pilotage Authority

At the time of the occurrence, the Ingenika was operating in a compulsory pilotage area that falls under the responsibility of the Pacific Pilotage Authority, which is mandated to establish, operate, maintain, and administer safe and efficient pilotage services in BC.

The Pacific Pilotage Authority has a pilotage waiver system under which vessels may obtain waivers that exempt them from having to take a licensed pilot on board if the operators and vessels meet certain requirements. However, it does not verify that the information submitted meets regulatory requirements, which leads to an increased risk that non-compliance will go undetected and compromise safety in compulsory pilotage waters.

The TSB identified similar issues regarding its waiver process in occurrences involving the Ocean Monarch (M17P0244) in 2017 and the Nathan E. Stewart (M16P0378) in 2016.

Therefore, the Board is recommending that the Pacific Pilotage Authority:

“The Ingenika investigation highlights ongoing concerns about safety management and regulatory surveillance, two major systemic safety issues in the transportation industry that are part of TSB Watchlist,” said Kathy Fox, Chair of the TSB. “Transport Canada needs to increase its surveillance of this vessel class and require owners and operators to assess risks adequately, and the Pacific Pilotage Authority needs to ensure that only qualified crew members and vessels are operating with pilotage waivers.”

See the investigation page for more information.

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: 819-360-4376