Investigation into crane collapse at Port of Vancouver highlights concerns over large container ships

·2 min read

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada has raised concerns over the safety of large container ships in its investigation into a crane collapse at the Port of Vancouver.

In the report released Thursday, the TSB found an error in the pilot's commands caused the Ever Summit container vessel to collide with the berth at Vanterm, which caused the crane to fall onto the ship on Jan. 28, 2019.

Kerry Morris
Kerry Morris

The investigation highlights that container ships have increased in size over the past 10 years and that "larger vessels necessitate berthing manoeuvres that have very little tolerance for error."

The TSB says there is no oversight by Transport Canada or by port authorities to determine whether or not larger vessels can safely berth. It is up to individual terminals to determine the maximum vessel size they can accommodate safely.

"The board is concerned that the size of vessels may exceed the Port of Vancouver's terminal infrastructure capacity to accommodate them safely," the report reads.

Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Transportation Safety Board of Canada

The Ever Summit is nearly 300 metres in length, with more than 75,000 in gross tonnage.

According to the investigation, the vessels berthing at Vanterm have seen a 91 per cent increase in summer deadweight and a 25 per cent increase in vessel length overall between 2008 and 2018. In the same period, there were no major changes to the fenders, mooring bollards and cranes at the terminal.

The TSB states that larger vessels require higher berth walls in order to berth safely.

The investigation revealed that the pilot intended to berth the vessel with the assistance of two tugs, but the tugs were inadvertently given opposite commands and the vessel's stern hit the berth.

It says the pilot and bridge team's view of the tugs was obscured and the pilot was relying on memory to keep track of the tugs.

No one was hurt in the collision, but operations at the terminal — the main site for container loading and unloading at the Vancouver port — were put on hold for days.

Since the incident, the board says British Columbia Coast Pilots Ltd., the independent body that oversees ship pilots in the province, has developed standard communication procedures for use between pilots and tugs.

The report also says the Port of Vancouver and Vanterm, one of the 29 terminals operating within the port, have reviewed crane storage practices to ensure arriving and departing ships are less likely to clip the equipment.