The Transportation Safety Board of Canada concluded that the 2018 grounding of the passenger vessel Akademik Ioffe in Canadian Arctic waters was caused by safety breaches and, therefore, called for additional navigation measures, according to a survey.
The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has recommended developing and implementing mandatory mitigation measures to “ensure the safety of passenger ships and protect the vulnerable Arctic environment”.
According to report, the investigation investigated the incident that saw the Russian passenger ship Akademik Ioffe run aground near the Astronomical Society Islands, 78 nautical miles northwest of Kugaaruk, Nunavut on August 24, 2018 The ship was carrying 102 guests and 61 crew members; no injuries were reported as a result of the grounding.
Several search and rescue assets from the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian Coast Guard were tasked with assisting the vessel in distress on the day of the incident, the TSB wrote. The ship refloated by the incoming tide later that day, and the passengers were evacuated and transferred to another passenger ship the next day.
The vessel suffered serious damage to its hull: two ballast tanks and two fuel tanks were breached and took on water. According to the TSB, approximately 81 L of the ship’s fuel oil was released to the environment.
According to the report, the investigation determined that the Akademik Ioffe was sailing through “straits in a remote area of the Canadian Arctic where no member of the ship’s crew had ever been, and who was not been surveyed according to modern hydrographic standards “.
“Since the navigation charts did not show any shoals or other hazards to navigation, the bridge team considered the passage safe; and despite a note to the mariners that the information used to establish the water depths was reconnaissance in nature, they did not take any additional precautions or add additional personnel on the watch. As a result, with the multitasking officer of the watch and the helmsman busy steering the vessel, the steadily decreasing water depth below the keel went unnoticed for more than four minutes because the shallow water alarms from the echosounders had been turned off, ”the report reads.
The investigation also revealed that passenger security operations did not meet some of the requirements of the SOLAS Convention (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974).
“For example, safety briefings were carried out more than 12 hours after the departure of the vessel, while the requirements state that newly embarked passengers must undergo safety briefings and rallies before or immediately after the departure of the vessel”, The report states / “In addition, the shipping personnel were unofficially responsible for coordinating the safety of the passengers during the voyage, and provided the safety briefing to the passengers on behalf of the ship’s crew.
According to the TSB report, the SOLAS Convention also requires passenger ships like the Akademik Ioffe to have a Decision Support System (DSS) in place to handle any foreseeable emergencies that may arise on board. The investigation determined that the MAS aboard the Akademik Ioffe did not include emergency procedures for the bottoming or running aground vessel.
The TSB said it has studied the four groundings of passenger ships in the Canadian Arctic since 1996 and that in three of these cases, “deficiencies in the planning or execution of the voyage were significant contributing factors”.
This investigation found that “operating in the Canadian Arctic presents unique risks, as passenger ships often navigate areas that are not mapped to modern standards in a harsh climate, with local research resources and limited rescue operations ”.
Call for measures
The report states that “given these risks, it is essential that operators of passenger vessels operating in the Canadian Arctic adopt additional mitigation strategies to address them.”
Transport Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, together, have the regulatory mandate to implement various risk mitigation measures to reduce the likelihood and consequences of a stranding of a passenger vessel in Arctic waters, according to the report.
“Therefore, until the coastal waters surrounding the Canadian Arctic Archipelago are properly mapped and other mitigation measures are not put in place, there is a persistent risk that vessels will unintentionally come into contact with the seabed, putting passengers, crew and the environment at risk. Therefore, the Bureau recommends that the Department of Transport, in collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, develop and implement mandatory risk mitigation measures for all passenger vessels operating in coastal waters of the ‘Canadian Arctic,’ the report says.
Maritime intelligence firm Lloyd’s List confirmed the findings of the TSB report, saying that “with more than 85 percent of Canadian Arctic waters having inadequate hydrographic data, the likelihood of a similar event involving passenger ships engaged in adventure tourism is high ”.
“When incidents do occur, the cold, large and sparsely populated region poses additional risks to the survivability of passengers. This situation is compounded by the lack of rapid search and rescue response in the region. In view of these risks and the increase in passenger ship traffic in the Arctic, further action is needed, ”Lloyd’s List wrote in a press release.
“While the (TSB) recommendation is not prescriptive, the Board highlighted optional measures that could include requiring more detailed inspections of ships prior to entering the Arctic or perhaps prohibiting vessels from entering the Arctic. vessels to cross arctic waters that are not adequately monitored. Other measures noted in the report include the mandatory transport of additional navigation aids, the mandatory use of supernumerary navigational experts, or ensuring that other vessels are always nearby. Whatever action is taken, the TSB report is clear: more needs to be done to mitigate risks, improve passenger safety and protect a fragile and sensitive Arctic environment, ”the intelligence firm added.