Thursday, January 12, 2017

Arca 1 follow up

My post on the Arca 1 has received more comments than any other post I have made on Shipfax. There are too many to publish and too many to comment on directly. And since this is my personal blog and not a forum, I have never used it as vehicle to exchange opinions one on one.

There are many things that need to be added however, and some corrections. In no particular order:

It was the RCAF's CH-149 Cormorant helicopter from 413 Squadron based in Greenwood, NS that lifted the six crew members from the Arca 1. The CCG and RCAF provide Search and Rescue jointly, but the excellent bit of close-in flying, landing two SAR techs and lifting everyone off safely was done by the Royal Canadian Air Force.

It is the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) that will be investigating the grounding, not the NTSB. The latter initials belong to the United States' organization that provides a corresponding service.
You will note that we have not heard if Panama will be participating in this investigation.

There were several observations that it was easy for me to point the finger. That is true, and I did. However it was more of a shot gun blast since I covered everyone who could possibly have been involved in sending this vessel to sea. Any one of a number of agencies, companies or individuals could have changed the course of events. And since it will be at least two years before we hear anything from the TSB, my guess (at this point) is as good as anyone's as to what might have been done differently.

I acknowledge that all eventualities cannot be covered. The ship was only an hour or so from the Sydney pilot, and could well have been overcome by fast moving weather.  Had all gone well there would have been no incident. Had the Canso Canal been open and the had the ship left Sorel early enough to go that way, things might have turned out very differently. A sister vessel, the Sillery, (pictured in a previous post) made the similar voyage without incident in October 1992 - and it had not been double hulled.

These are all what ifs and maybes, and can result in endless speculation.   The fact is that it happened, and satisfactory explanations my well be forthcoming.

The Coast Guard's response to the incident has been without fault as far as I am aware. I think they are under-resourced and their mandate is too restricted. These are political matters and are in no way a criticism of the Coast Guard employees themselves.

The same may very well be true of Transport Canada's Marine Safety people. Not their fault if their mandate is restricted to international treaties when it comes to foreign ships.

My point was that political decisions need to be made about control of shipping in our waters. Recent concerns on the west coast about tanker safety, while perhaps panic driven and not entirely rational, resulted in a political decision to develop the Ocean Protection Plan, announced in November. I see that reaction as a response to public pressure and opinion. Unless similar attention is drawn to east coast matters, we, as usual, will be ignored by Ottawa.

Shipping and marine traffic will go on, it is the lifeblood of commerce, and accidents will happen. However they should be prevented where possible, rather than subjecting the taxpayers to costly and dangerous SAR missions, and sometimes (although not likely in the case in Arca 1) even more costly cleanups.

I hope I can report a safe refloating of Arca 1 in a few days time. Weather permitting and enough pumps, and a way to melt the ice in the ballast water, the tugs Tim McKeil and Kaliutik will have delivered the ship to Sydney. The sandy shore that it landed on was about the best place that it could have happened, and so far the hull has not been breached.


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