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New vessels' 'disturbingly loud noise' a legal concern for BC Ferries

There was concern noise and vibrations from the German-built coastal class vessels would create legal problems for BC Ferries, documents released to The Tyee today show.

The "general descriptions of the problem" cited in an April 15, 2008 BC Ferries report include "disturbingly loud noise with a 'whopping' characteristic."

There were significant vibrations, including in the passenger waiting areas of the B.C. government owned company's terminals, it said, and caused "windows shaking, uncomfortable sensations" in the community. Excessive wash was also an issue, it said.

"It can be expected there shall need to be a combination of altered operating practices and possible modifications to arrangements," the report said.

Several sections of the records were censored under section 14 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which allows public bodies to withhold records that are subject to solicitor-client privilege. A letter from BC Ferries to The Tyee said other responsive records were withheld in their entirety for the same reason.

A second report included a seven-step process for investigating the problem. The first step was a risk assessment and the last was recommendations, but the five middle steps were withheld under section 14 of the act.

At an address near Nanaimo's Departure Bay there were "vibrations that rattle household items, windows, and even beds into the late evening,"it said. Another noted "A low frequency 'throb' that can be felt as much as heard" and "Some frequencies establish resonance to a level that makes sleep impossible."

There were similar complaints at Horseshoe Bay north of Vancouver.

A section headed "noise and vibration" said the "problem [was] evident since arrival of vessel." Conclusions were severed from the report, but the recommendations included testing the noise and vibration levels when the vessel was fully loaded and "consider shutting down [forward] propeller."

BC Ferries' letter to The Tyee said the company has further related records, but is consulting with third-parties whose interests may be affected by their release.

The company announced today it is moving one of the vessels, the Coastal Renaissance, onto the Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.

The Tyee reported in 2008 on the new vessels' design problems, fuel use and noise.

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

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