Had the fire on board the MV Holiday Island happened last year or further offshore, the evacuation procedure would have looked much different for passengers last Friday.
Northumberland Ferries Limited installed the two emergency response slides used to evacuate the burning ship, just before opening for business this season.
A total of 230 passengers were evacuated safely, most by slipping down a slide and then boarding local fishing vessels which had sailed onto scene within minutes. Some passengers compared the slide to an amusement park ride but in far less amusing circumstances.
The new slides, one positioned off each side of the ship, were installed as part of Transport Canada’s life saving systems upgrade project, which was initiated three years ago. The slides are intended to ease efficient evacuation processes.
The previous system would have had some passengers lowered by two lifeboats suspended over the side of the vessel on davits. Remaining passengers would have been lowered by the davits in inflatable rafts which were stored in white canisters on the ship’s deck.
Don Cormier, vice-president of NFL, said the ferry crew’s extensive safety drills, including weekly fire drills, helped contribute to the positive outcome with no injuries.
NFL also participated in a mass rescue exercise a few years ago off the coast of Wood Islands involving many of the same organizations that responded to the fire. Mr Cormier said lessons were learned in that exercise that helped on Friday.
Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic