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LETTER: Safety the reason behind ban on lower passenger decks

While I understand (but do not agree with) your complaint with respect to having to leave the enclosed vehicle decks of BC Ferries I take issue with the misconceptions and falsehoods you used to support your position.

The 2017 decision by Transport Canada to vacate enclosed vehicle decks on all Canadian ferries had nothing to do with the sinking of the Queen of the North. BC Ferries northern operations had prohibited occupancy of vehicle decks while underway for decades before the 2006 tragedy. In fact, the closure of enclosed vehicle decks extended to all affected ships as a result of Transport Canada agreeing to enforce a long-standing international maritime safety requirement to which Canada is a willing signatory.

The reasons for limiting access to enclosed vehicle decks address a multitude of risks, not the least of which is a continuous safe air supply, flooding risks and vehicles which have rolled out of control. The International Maritime Organization determined years ago that enclosed vehicle decks constituted an industrial and human safety risk after revisiting a litany of maritime disasters in roll-on-roll-off ships.

People have died on the vehicle decks of BC Ferries, despite your claim otherwise. The collision in Active Pass between Queen of Victoria and the Sergey Yesinin in August 1970 took the lives of three people, two of whom were on the vehicle deck, including a seven-month-old infant. Other injured passengers were trapped on the vehicle deck because crew could not get to them.

Your assertion that the risk on the lower vehicle decks is infinitesimal demonstrates ignorance of the actual conditions and complete disregard for vessel and passenger safety management. BC Ferries large vessels operate in one of the busiest maritime traffic environments in the world. Added to the risk is the fact that they typically cross in and outbound traffic lanes such that risk of collision is considerably increased. It is to the credit of BC Ferries seafarers that they mitigate that risk with exceptional skill and awareness.

You might have made it clear that the vacating of vehicle decks does not apply to the upper vehicle deck where the majority of passenger vehicles are positioned. You might also ask yourself why you are on a ferry at all in the middle of a devastating pandemic where your movement from one region to another is putting others at risk.

Capt. David S. Tyre, international marine safety instructor

Saanichton

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