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Former BC Ferries employee says Northern Adventure had evacuation plan

A Tyee commenter identifying himself as a former British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. employee says the Northern Adventure's evacuation documents were in order when the company put the vessel into service on April 31, 2007, although records obtained by The Tyee suggest otherwise.

"I can assure all persons that sailed on the vessel that the Northern Adventure did have an evacuation plan and muster list in place prior to the vessel carrying passengers," Kevin_S wrote in the comment section of a Tyee story yesterday, noting he'd produced the evacuation plan. "In place and approved by the Senior Master. (Captain)."

The commenter did not respond to The Tyee's emailed request for an interview this morning, though he did comment on a follow up story.

Kevin Stapleton was BC Ferries' manager of technical information in its vessel construction and industry affairs division in 2007 and dealt with Transport Canada -- the federal agency responsible for certifying the vessel -- on the issues of crewing and evacuation plans for the Northern Adventure.

The Tyee reported on 1,500 pages of records Transport Canada released following an access to information request on the certification of the Northern Adventure. The records show that three weeks after BC Ferries put the vessel into service, Transport Canada was still seeking an evacuation analysis from the publicly-owned company.

On March 16, 2007, Transport Canada's Al Rushwan wrote to Stapleton: "Until we can see your evacuation analysis we cannot determine the extent of congestion and timeliness of evacuation if any. However, for the night opeation of this berthed passenger ferry, you will certainly require [censored]."

On March 26, Rushwan wrote to Stapleton and others: "Please advise if the Evacuation Analysis as required by SOLAS C11-2/R13/7.4, will be available prior to March 30? Without such analysis this ship is not in compliance with the SOLAS convention."

On April 24, 2007, 24 days after the Northern Adventure began carrying passengers, Stapleton wrote to Rushwan: "As far as I understood the Evacuation Analysis was complete we gave the new routes and equipment crewings to BMT. Bruce's [Paterson, BC Ferries fleet technical director] office had a draft copy so I am not sure what has happened but we will find out from Bruce was is the status [sic]."

Rushwan responded: "Thanks for the update, we're looking forward to see the analysis report prior to the expiry date of the current term SIC 1 certificate, I hope [censored]!!"

And Stapleton answered, "Just had a note from Bruce he has a copy of the final draft, we are looking over to now, it should be in your office in the next couple of days."

Emails show that Transport Canada received the evacuation analysis the next day, on April 25, 2007. Inspector Rushwan's comments on that analysis were censored from the records Transport Canada released.

"During the vessels’ initial certification (March 2007), an issue was noted with the ‘evacuation analysis’ submitted by BC Ferries to Transport Canada," Transport Canada spokesperson Sau Sau Liu wrote in an email to The Tyee yesterday. "For that reason, Transport Canada imposed a minimum safe manning level for BC Ferries to comply with until it was resolved. Subsequently, BC Ferries submitted a revised ‘evacuation analysis’ which satisfied Transport Canada requirements."

An April 26, 2007 report on a visit by six B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers Union officials to the Northern Adventure noted that crew were yet to see evacuation plans. "We asked about the evacuation plans and they are not aboard and everybody is sure that Kevin Stapleton is on top of it," the report said.

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

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