Tugboat sunk after larger tug veered off course

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, August 22 2017

Transport Canada has released details into what happened to cause the tugboat Albern to be sunk off the cliffs of Gabriola in 2016.

On May 24, 2016, the two tugs Albern and C.T. Titan had been working in the log yards off Gabriola.

The Albern was 9.81m long, her gross tonnage was 9.43T

The C.T. Titan is 15.24m long, her gross tonnage is 53.91T

They were/are owned by Jones Marine Group out of Chemainus, BC.

Just prior to 5:30pm, the two tugs were travelling back to Nanaimo Harbour, essentially parallel to each other, about 15m (50 feet) apart; with the Titan about 15m back of the Albern.

The master of the Titan had been piloting the vessel from the upper flying bridge, and visually verified that the Titan was travelling parallel to the Albern

The hand levers on the flying bridge were set a full ahead; while the ones in the wheelhouse were at neutral.

The master then left the flying bridge, taking six to eight seconds to move to the Titan’s wheelhouse. Transport Canada noted this was normal practice at the time for the operators, with no near misses or incidents to cause any change in the practice.

When the master got to the wheelhouse, the master saw that the Titan had veered to port and was about to strike the Albern.

The master made several attempts to transfer propulsion control to the wheelhouse but was unable to do so.

Seconds later, the Titan’s bow struck the Albern’s starboard quarter, capsizing the smaller tug and trapping the two crew members of the Albern underwater.

The Albern’s deckhand escaped the tugs wheelhouse through the wheelhouse door; the master escaped through a shattered wheelhouse window. Both swam to the surface.

After striking the Albern, the Titan veered to port and ran up onto the hull of the capsized Albern, after which the Albern sank in 100m of water. The Titan’s crew rescued the Albern crew from the water - as the life raft from the Albern had not inflated when the tug sank - due to the painter not being tied properly to the Albern.

The Titan sustained damage to its outer shell, which was repaired at a commercial shipyard. The Titan was back in service on August 12, 2016

Following the occurrence, the owner hired a consulting firm to conduct a safety management system gap analysis based on the International Safety Management Code. The firm presented its report to the owner, along with a recommended action plan. As a result, the company sent 10 masters and 10 deckhands to attend a situational awareness and bridge resource management training course in a local training institute. The course covered situational awareness, watchkeeping skills and knowledge, awareness of human factors, and safe working practices. The company also developed standard operating procedures and checklists for responding to marine emergencies.

In December 2016, the authorized representative reported that the company had re-examined the arrangements for securing the painters on all the life rafts on its vessels, and had corrected the deficiency that was present on the C.T. Titan at the time of the occurrence.

The Albern remains on the ocean floor, with any fuel and other fluids remaining when it sank still trapped in the vessel.