Inadequate tow gear, poor risk assessment cited in BC barge groundingsJul 28, 2017 02:46 PM
HM Blue Horizon grounded on Vancouver Island after towlines parted between the barge and HM Tacoma.
Two barges went aground on Vancouver Island in high winds because inadequate towing equipment was used and the company had not developed documented operating procedures for its vessels, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) said in a report released in May.
The 39-foot tugboat H.M. Scout was en route from Victoria, British Columbia, to Bamberton, B.C., on March 2, 2016, when the incident occurred at about 1730. The tug had the 148-foot HM Tacoma and the 175-foot HM Blue Horizon in tandem tow when the lines between the barges parted, resulting in the larger barge floating free and grounding near Clover Point.
While the two-man crew of H.M. Scout attempted a recovery in gale-force winds and 6- to 9-foot seas, part of a towline fouled the tug’s propeller and partially disabled the vessel. HM Tacoma subsequently grounded near Finlayson Point. There were no injuries, but some of the scrap construction material on HM Blue Horizon was lost overboard.
The crew of the tug abandoned attempts to recover the barges to avoid grounding and returned to Victoria. The next day, HM Tacoma was pulled off the beach by a commercial tug. The following week, HM Blue Horizon was lightened and taken into tow. All three vessels involved in the grounding are owned by Heavy Metal Marine Ltd. of Victoria, B.C.
In its findings, the TSB wrote that the master and owner, operating without procedures or a systematic assessment of the risks, unintentionally made decisions that contributed to the barges going aground.
A piece of towline fouled the prop of H.M. Scout, partially disabling the tug.
“The overall adequacy of the towing arrangement had not been assessed in the context of the voyage conditions and an inadequate towing arrangement was used,” the agency determined. “The tug and tow encountered the forecasted gale-force winds and rough sea conditions, and the combined forces of these movements caused the ropes between the barges to part. … There was no contingency plan to guide the crew, so they made ad-hoc decisions and placed themselves at risk in the attempt to recover the HM Blue Horizon.”
The TSB report was critical of Transport Canada (TC) for not providing easily understandable standards and guidance to assist towing vessel owners and operators to ensure the adequacy of their towing arrangement and the condition of their equipment.
“TC currently has standards with respect to the towing arrangements for oil-carrying barges, but does not have standards for the towing arrangements used with general cargo barges such as the HM Blue Horizon and HM Tacoma,” the TSB report stated.
The report also pointed out that TC currently does not have an inspection program for general cargo barges or for tugs less than 15 gross tons. H.M. Scout is registered at 13.88 gross tons.
Repeated attempts by Professional Mariner to contact Heavy Metal Marine Ltd. for comment were unsuccessful.