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Regulator can't say if ferries were exempted from stability related requirement

Transport Canada has not yet been able to say whether or not four B.C. Ferry Services Inc. vessels were granted exemptions from required tests related to stability.

The Tyee reported Jan. 29 that according to a record from the publicly-owned company, four of its 36 ferries are overdue for lightship surveys, which Transport Canada requires every five years. The tests measure changes in the weight and longitudinal centre of gravity of ships and are used to decide if further stability tests are needed.

A BC Ferries spokesperson, Deborah Marshall, said Transport Canada had exempted the vessels from the requirement. Asked for records showing those exemptions, Marshall said the freedom of information process is the way to request documents.

Transport Canada spokesperson Gillian Glover said she had been unsuccessful in attempts to confirm whether or not BC Ferries' vessels had been exempted from the lightship survey requirement or given an extension.

"Transport Canada will follow up with BC Ferries to verify the circumstances, and whether the vessels meet all appropriate marine safety requirements," she said in a Feb. 1 email. "It is the owner's responsibility to ensure the vessel remains compliant and is safe in all respects for the duration of the certificate, and that the surveys are conducted in the required time frames."

Three of the vessels are being refitted and are not in operation right now, she said, adding that if there've been no significant changes to the weight of a vessel the risk is minimal and that annual inspections give Transport Canada officials a chance to notice changes.

The Mill Bay was due for a lightship survey on Sept. 1, 2006, the Howe Sound Queen was due on June 27, 2009, the Queen of Chilliwack was due on Sept. 7, 2009, and the Spirit of British Columbia was due on May 16, 2010.

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

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