Thursday, December 29, 2011

Too much spin. Not enough fact.

Thanks to On The Waterfront and The Gazeteer we get the semi-informed opinion of  British Columbia's GlobalBC (television) chief political reporter. (You might want to read those two blogs first and then come back to what I have to say. Both take the position that the attempt to diminish an uncontrolled crash into the berth is spouting the BC Ferries party line).

I agree, because Mr. Baldry's lack of attention to facts impeaches any other point he might have been trying to make.

Of course, four "hard" landings so far this year seems excessive. But BC Ferries responds that its fleet sails more than 187,000 times a year and averages about a dozen hard landings (of various degrees) a year, which seems to put things in perspective.
And what perspective would that be? As OTW pointed out early, this isn't about odds. It's about making sure your passengers are delivered safely to their destination every single time. And, as you can see from her post I linked to at the top, Washington State Ferries, the other large North American ferry operator, is claiming two "hard landings" in two years.

As for odds, they aren't a part of the picture in this industry. I am required to navigate something considerably larger than a BC Ferry over or around thousands of rocks safely. If I wish to retain any semblance of my position on the bridge of a ship, I am absolutely required to miss every single one. I do not have, (and no professional mariner has), the luxury of using a ratio of rocks hit to rocks missed to justify a single event of running aground.

Mr. Baldry goes on to lay out costs and tosses this in:
An extra $1 million a year in additional operating costs is courtesy of Transport Canada's staffing rules on vessels.
That's what is called a "drive-by statement". Because it reads as some punitive measure imposed on BC Ferries by the nasty federal regulator it throws a haze on the truth, either intentionally on Mr. Baldry's part or because he just isn't in possession of the facts. He is clearly talking about the requirement for Minimum Safe Manning Documents, an international requirement to which Canada must subscribe to keep its merchant marine, even its domestic fleets, within the treaty framework of the International Maritime Organization. In short, a MSM Document lists the minimum number and least allowable qualification of members of a ship's crew required to safely operate the vessel while responding to an emergency.

Further, Mr. Baldry seems to have swallowed somebody's propaganda. BC Ferries worked with Transport Canada and chose to reduce passenger capacity instead of increase crew complement to meet the requirements of minimum safe manning. The impact of the regulation requiring minimum safe manning was minimal on BC Ferries in terms of crew size. Additionally, in order to keep crew complement at the pre-MSM levels BC Ferries upgraded the lifesaving, evacuation and fire-fighting systems on only two minor vessels. 
The federal agency's new sewage treatment rules come into effect next summer, and BC Ferries has been required to spend more than $60 million to comply with them.
Once again, he carries out a "drive-by". BC Ferries, and all other ship/boat operators in Canada have had 8 years to bring themselves up to compliance with this international requirement. Up to now Canada has not been in compliance with the IMO Pollution Convention even though we had ratified the treaty.

Mr. Baldry then goes on to say this:
For example, does there really need to be 16 trips a day between Nanaimo and Gabriola Island? Does there need to be almost 30 trips a day from Salt Spring Island to various locations? For that matter, does Salt Spring Island really need three ferry terminals?
Now, the very idea of chopping even one money losing sailing on these routes does, of course, elicit howls of rage from those who live on those islands.

I suppose if you live in Vancouver or Victoria or Nanaimo, those routes probably don't matter all that much. And, it has been very much a BC Ferries party line, ever since they were severed from the ministry. The fact, however, is that the routes Baldry suggests might be able to be eliminated or reduced are former Ministry of Transport and Highways routes. BC Ferries acquired them in 1985 when they took over the MOTH fleet, its routes and its personnel. The truth is, those islands are a part of British Columbia and the residents are citizens. To increase their isolation, (let the "if you choose to live on an island" howls begin), is to violate the compact that was established when BC Ferries acquired the MOTH ferry operations.

Perhaps the most egregious line in Mr. Baldry's piece is this:
The most recent crash will be investigated and perhaps lessons will be learned from it and that will be that (until the next serious hard landing or accident). 
Cavalier and dismissive. 14 people killed on or by BC Ferries? Corollary damage. They'll never be any better than what they are. You could be next.

I don't see Keith Baldry being consulted on maritime safety anytime soon.

1 comment:

islandpapa said...

sMy "coastal inspiration" to everyone for the new year...spend a few minutes every day looking outside the spin