February 1, 2016
The Honourable Marc Garneau,
Minister of Transport
307 Confederation Building
House of Commons
Re: Evacuation of Special Needs Passengers – Ship Safety Bulletin 06/2007
My name is Captain William Cursiter and I am a Director of the BC Coastal Transportation Society. We are a non-profit Society on the west coast concerned with the safety of the domestic fleet carrying passengers in Canada. We previously wrote former Transport Minister, Lisa Raitt on 4 April 2014 and received a reply on the 12 August 2014. Our organisation has also made two representations regarding Ship Safety Bulletin 06/2007 at National CMAC Meetings (November 2013 and April 2014) and one at a Western Regional Meeting(September 2013). Our emails and presentations concern the safe and efficient evacuation of special needs passengers from domestic passenger vessels to representatives of your Transportation Ministry.
We have communicated with Transport Canada regarding our observations and are encouraged that they followed through with investigating two of the fourteen concerns we raised during their process of the Concentrated Inspection Campaign (CIC). We do, however, have ongoing concerns which we will outline.
Summarizing the results of the CIC as recorded in TP 15256E as follows:
TCMSS conducted a judgmental sample which resulted in 71 passenger vessels being targeted for inspection. A majority of the vessels were under 500 gross tonnes, and the number of passenger carried varied, depending on the vessel’s operations. Of the 71 vessels, 60 had CICs conducted. During the conduct of the CICs, TCMSS inspectors asked crew members if they were aware what the requirements were for people requiring assistance, as well as reviewing passenger logs. It was found that a vast majority of vessel owners do not keep a record of passengers requiring special assistance (72%), closely followed by owners not having a procedure in place that identify passengers requiring special needs (68%). Overall, based on the CIC inspections, a total of 29 deficiency notices were issued, which represents 48% of the vessels inspected for the CIC.
2. TCMSS should work in collaboration with passenger vessel and special needs associations to raise awareness and provide clarification to vessel owners/operators on dealing with declared persons needing special care or assistance during emergency situations.
3. Transport Canada should provide guidance to passenger vessel owners/operators (e.g. via Ship Safety Bulletin) on the importance of having emergency procedures in place for passengers requiring special assistance. Regulatory requirements should be included in this guidance, such as Section 106(b) of the Canada Shipping Act 2001 and Section 10 of the Fire and Boat Drill Regulation, to remind vessel owners/operators of their responsibilities during emergencies.
The results of the 2014/15 CIC pilot support the evidence provided by industry at the 2014 April CMAC meeting as well as by the Transportation Safety Board in terms of the requirement to clarify the procedures for passengers requiring special needs. As found during the conduct of the CICs, almost 3 out of 4 vessels did not have a procedure in place. There is a risk that if an emergency does occur onboard a vessel, operators may not have sufficient practices in place to aid passengers who require special assistance.
In addition, almost half of the vessels inspected were issued deficiency notices due to regulatory requirements not being met, which shows that there are still areas requiring improvement for lifesaving equipment and fire and boat drills. Based on these findings, TCMSS developed the recommendations outlined in sections 6 of this report. These recommendations will be monitored by TCMSS to ensure that they have been implemented in a satisfactory manner.
Our Society’s definition of Special Needs Passengers includes any person with any disability that requires them to need assistance during evacuation of the vessel. We would include infants and persons weighing more than the capacity of the regular adult size lifejacket as special needs passengers. SOLAS has recommended lifejackets for these persons which are not yet carried on all Canadian Domestic Passenger Vessels. In particular, it should be made clear to carriers that both children’s lifejackets and such Special Needs Passenger lifejackets as may be mandated must be of sufficient quantity for the passengers on board. It has been observed that some Masters interviewed have felt the minimum quantities required were sufficient for all occasions.
We suggest that TCMSS should audit and risk assess Canadian Domestic Passenger Vessels to ensure that the percentage of children’s lifejackets are sufficient for the number of children carried on board. Large groups of children during school field trips, children’s sporting events, children’s club or organisation outings could lead to situations where the numbers are not adequate.
We hope that TCMSS will follow through with the involvement of special needs associations and the travelling public. It is important that associations be made aware of the requirement to report when there is a person needing special care so that this can be reported to the ships master.
We would say that TCMSS findings that almost half of the vessels inspected have been issued deficiency notices shows there may be a cultural apathy on the part of the Shipping Industry towards Ship Safety Bulletins and/or the duty of care with regards to passengers needing assistance in the event of an emergency.
During my career I have witnessed several serious safety failures during regulatory deployments of lifesaving equipment where TCMSS were not in attendance or in some cases declined to attend. It is our view that the Ministry’s representatives should always be present during such deployments and that the deployments be conducted in a realistic manner.
Personnel Training for the Assistance of Persons with Disabilities Regulations SOR/94-42
Employees and Contractors Who Interact with the Public
4 Every carrier and terminal operator shall ensure that, consistent with its type of operation, all employees and contractors of the carrier or terminal operator who provide transportation-related services and who may be required to interact with the public or to make decisions in respect of the carriage of persons with disabilities receive a level of training appropriate to the requirements of their function in the following areas:
(a) the policies and procedures of the carrier or terminal operator with respect to persons with disabilities, including relevant regulatory requirements;
(b) the needs of those persons with disabilities most likely to require additional services, recognition of those needs, and the responsibilities of the carrier or terminal operator in relation to those persons, including the level of assistance, methods of communication and aids or devices generally required by persons with disabilities; and
(c) the necessary skills for providing assistance to persons with disabilities, including the role of the attendant, and the needs of persons with disabilities travelling with a service animal, including the role and the needs of that animal.
Employees and Contractors Who Provide Physical Assistance
5 Every carrier shall ensure that, consistent with its type of operation, all employees and contractors of the carrier who may be required to provide physical assistance to a person with a disability receive the training described in section 4 and a level of training appropriate to the requirements of their function in the following areas:
(a) assisting with mobility aids through doors and on irregular and multi-level surfaces, steps, curbs and elevators;
(b) transferring a person with a disability between the person’s own mobility aid and a mobility aid provided by a carrier and between a mobility aid and the person’s passenger seat, including (i) seeking information from a person with a disability with respect to the person’s preferred method of transfer and information with respect to any other special measures required to ensure the safety and comfort of the person with a disability, and (ii) performing appropriate lifting techniques to (A) execute various types of transfer with maximum consideration for the dignity, safety and comfort of the person with a disability, and (B) avoid injury to the employee or contractor making the transfer;
(c) guiding and orienting a person who is blind or whose visual impairment affects that person’s mobility; and
(d) assisting a person who has limitations in balance, agility or coordination that affect that person’s mobility.
Will the Canadian Transport Agency Accessible Directorate be included in these meetings or workshops?
We feel that Passenger Vessels Owners should be aware of their obligations as stated in the Personnel Training for the Assistance of Persons with Disabilities Regulations SOR/94-42
Crew Training and Drills
Fire and Boat Drills Regulations SOR/2010-83
10 The master of a vessel that carries passengers shall, before the vessel embarks on a voyage, ensure that the following information is both communicated to him or her and recorded:
(a) the number of persons on board; and
(b) details respecting all persons who have declared a need for special care or assistance during an emergency
We have identified that Crew Training and Drills should include disability awareness training of the appropriate responses to different disabilities. Being able to communicate appropriately, including instructions in braille, written instructions in English, French or any language of passengers carried in large numbers.
Ships crew may have to delegate other passengers to assist Special Needs Passengers and in the event that that is the case, these crew members should have the training to ensure that safeguards of the passenger’s safety and dignity are taken care of. Some of the ships’ crew should be trained in escorting techniques of visually and hearing impaired persons and of persons with mobility issues. Also, they should be able to transfer a person from a mobility device to evacuation chutes, slides, lifeboats and life rafts, performing appropriate lifting techniques to execute various types of transfer with maximum consideration for the dignity, safety and comfort of the person with a disability as well as avoid injury to the employee making the transfer.
Drills and Training of crew should involve the scenario of rescuing passengers who are still on car decks including persons in an ambulance or special needs passengers still in their vehicles. On some vessels there may be up to 20% of the passengers on board who are still on the vessel’s car decks. In some cases, this could mean up to 100 or more passengers on a fully loaded ferry. Risk assessments should be done to determine how many passengers are special needs. On large vessels it would mean evacuating passengers from a car deck three decks below the embarkation deck.
TCMSS needs to conduct independent risk assessments on evacuating special needs passengers from all areas of the vessel accessible to these passengers. As well consideration should be given to the need for guidance and training of new Ships’ Officers conducting ships’ drills and training, In some cases the Officer conducting the drills may be self-taught and the quality of the drills dependant on their experience.
Adequacy of regulatory oversight for Evacuation Plans.
TSB 2014 – 2015 Annual report to Parliament
During the course of the investigation, deficiencies were discovered with respect to passenger-related duties, written evacuation procedures, and TC’s oversight to ensure compliance with regulations regarding passenger safety emergency procedures.
These three investigations illustrate that not enough has been done by TC to enforce regulations that are in place and to ensure that both operators and inspectors clearly understand the requirements that are intended to ensure that crews are able to manage passengers safely in an emergency.
The following TSB Marine Investigation Reports between May 2003 and November 2013 have made comments in Investigation Reports regarding TC not doing enough to enforce regulations regarding Evacuation Plans and passenger safety emergency procedures:
M03N0050 (Joseph and Clara Smallwood),
M06W0052 (Queen of the North),
M07L0158 (Nordik Express),
M13L0067 (Louis Jolliet), and
M13M0287 (Princess of Acadia).
Previous TSB investigations have identified deficiencies and associated risks in the preparedness of Canadian passenger vessel crews to muster and account for passengers in an emergency situation. In response to TSB recommendations to address the issue, Transport Canada (TC) made regulations requiring that the muster list of a passenger vessel include tasks specific to passenger safety and include procedures that are developed to carry out those tasks.
In this occurrence, a documented muster list, emergency response manual and evacuation procedures were kept on board the Princess of Acadia and these were verified by TC marine safety inspectors during annual inspections, fulfilling the requirements for the certification of the vessel. However, the documents included none of the specific passenger safety-related duties or procedures required by the regulations, with the exception of “assembling the passengers at their designated muster stations.”
If TC oversight to ensure compliance with regulations regarding passenger safety emergency procedures is ineffective, there is a risk that these procedures will not achieve their intended purpose.
During my last 10 years working as a Master and Chief Officer I found many deficiencies in Evacuation Plans on board Domestic Passenger Vessels. A ship’s Evacuation Plan should be vessel specific with detailing most expected scenarios that could occur during evacuation of Passengers so that Ships Officers and crew can reference this for training drills. Most plans I have read failed to detail evacuation of special needs passengers.
For example, one worst-case deficiency was an evacuation plan that had photographs and launching instructions for lifesaving equipment carried on a sister ship manufactured by a different company. When I reported this I was told the evacuation plan was Transport Canada approved and could not be changed without contacting TC. Revisions took several months to correct this.
Among emails I have received from Transport Canada: one from a surveyor who stated: “there is no requirement in regulations for TC to approve evacuation procedures of the vessel and TC do not audit evacuation plans, this is the function of the vessels Safety Management System, it is the responsibility of the Master to ensure safe and complete evacuation.”
And this from another surveyor: “– S.111 of the Life Saving Equipment Regulations requires every passenger vessel have an evacuation procedure capable of ensuring safe evacuation of its entire complement within 30 minutes. Transport Canada verifies this capability when new evacuation equipment is first installed, and subsequently during annual boat and fire drills if required. There is no requirement to verify or approve evacuation plans and we do not do so.”
Another Evacuation Plan on a vessel with multiple licences reducing crew numbers when carrying less passengers: the vessel had three Muster Stations and one Muster Station would have a “Responsible Passenger” in charge of other passengers and was expected to instruct these passengers to don lifejackets and lead them to Abandon Ship Stations. This “Responsible Passenger” was replaced by a crew member when the licence increased passenger numbers.
We accept that assistance from passengers is often necessary during evacuation, but we feel it is a questionable practice to write Evacuation Plans expecting untrained and unqualified passengers to be responsible for supplementing and assuming crew duties during emergencies.
My personal experience with audits conducted by Company Designated Safety Management System Auditors and Transport Canada approved Delegated Statutory Inspection Program Auditors was that they were satisfied to see a binder titled Evacuation Plans but rarely looked inside it.
Domestic Passenger Vessels and Ferries could be carrying significant numbers of people who are unfamiliar with marine emergencies and evacuation scenarios. They require guidance from qualified crew who should have the required training in all respects to evacuate all passengers no matter what their physical, mental or emotional condition.
TC Western Region advised us that they board visiting cruise ships and witness drills specifically about Evacuation of Special Needs Passengers. When will TCMSS Inspectors do these same drills on our Domestic Passenger vessels?
Thank you for your consideration of this critical transportation safety issue regarding a significant number of persons who travel on vessels in the domestic fleet. We look forward to your response to the items we have raised.
Capt. William Cursiter
Director, BC Coastal Transportation
The Honourable Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
The Honourable Carla Qualtrough Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities
Julie Gascon, Marine Safety and Security, Transport Canada
Yvette Myers, Western Regional Director, Marine Safety and Security Pacific at Transport Canada