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Four BC Ferries vessels overdue for stability tests

Four British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. vessels are past their due dates for stability tests, according to a document from the publicly-owned company.

The federal regulator Transport Canada requires lightship surveys to be performed at least every five years. The tests check for changes in weight, which may affect a vessel's stability.

The Spirit of British Columbia, the Queen of Chilliwack, the Mill Bay and the Howe Sound Queen are all overdue for the test, according to a table BC Ferries released in response to a Tyee freedom of information request.

The chart says the Spirit of British Columbia was due for the test on May 16, 2010, but won't get it until its Feb. 2011 refit. The Chilliwack was due on Sept. 7, 2009, and the Howe Sound Queen was due on June 27, 2009, but neither will be tested until their refits which are scheduled in May 2011.

The Mill Bay, which runs between Brentwood Bay on the Saanich Peninsula and Mill Bay on Vancouver Island, was due for its test on Sept. 1, 2006, making it now more than four years overdue and nearly a decade since its last test. A note on the chart says the vessel will be retired in May 2011.

A spokesperson for Transport Canada said she couldn't immediately provide information on why the vessels hadn't had the test, but hoped to have an explanation available on Jan. 31.

"BC Ferries' vessels are fully compliant with Transport Canada regulations," spokesperson Deborah Marshall wrote in an email. Vessels get annual inspections and certificates to sail, she said.

The requirement for lightship surveys "does not always align with BC Ferries' refit cycle," she said. "Under the Canada Shipping Act, Transport Canada has the latitude to vary a standard to accommodate a refit cycle or vary specific requirements of a standard if, in the opinion of the inspector, the vessel is not at risk."

Marshall did not say directly whether or not Transport Canada had excused the four vessels from the standard.

The table BC Ferries released was revised on Jan 24. FOI manager Jason Eamer-Goult said it is updated on a regular basis and the company provided the most recent version.

A Dec. 22, 2009, version of the table, which The Tyee obtained outside the FOI process, shows that at that time eight of the publicly-owned company's 36 vessels were overdue for their required lightship survey.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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