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Marine Atlantic reports to travelling public on March 19 incident on MV Blue Puttees; confirms safety of the vessel

April 08, 2011

Marine Atlantic today outlined the findings of an internal review following an incident aboard the MV Blue Puttees on March 19 in which the vessel made an uncharacteristic roll while en route to Port aux Basques. Marine Atlantic stated today that it takes full responsibility for the safe operation of its vessels. The corporation's number one priority is the safety of every person on board its vessels and it recognizes that as a result of this incident, the public's confidence in the vessel may have been shaken. The corporation will work hard to restore that confidence.

"Marine Atlantic is saddened to have learned from the family on April 1 that a former employee, who was on board the MV Blue Puttees during the incident, recently passed away," said Wayne Follett, President and CEO of Marine Atlantic. "I have spoken with the family and will continue to be in close contact with them to offer full support as they go through this difficult time." Both the family and Marine Atlantic are awaiting the results of an autopsy.

"We have spent every day since March 19 investigating what happened, why it happened and putting precautionary measures in place to ensure that it does not happen again. We are here today to tell you that through our very extensive investigation, we know what happened.

"In the routine course of operating passenger ferries, vessels experience normal movements and sometimes significant rolls, particularly in heavy seas; however, this incident was uncharacteristic as a result of the combination of a number of contributing factors. While we know and understand that we cannot control the nature of the harsh environment in which we operate, we can make operational improvements to ensure this sequence of events does not reoccur. The operational factors that contributed to this incident have all been mitigated by Marine Atlantic."

Below is an account of the incident:


  • At 5:12a.m. the vessel rolled vigorously and quickly lasting approximately 25 seconds.
  • Following the incident the vessel was steadied on course and safely proceeded to Port aux Basques.
  • During the incident no passengers reported injuries, several crew members received minor injuries, there was interior damage to the vessel, and four commercial units were reported to have received superficial damage.
  • Following the incident Marine Atlantic received two reports of minor injuries from passengers through the customer relations line.

Contributing Factors


  • Retraction of the starboard stabilizer due to low oil level in the header tank
  • Successive quick and significant steering actions in a short time period
  • The steering of the vessel at higher speeds


  • High winds, heavy seas and wave roll period
  • Limited situational awareness due to darkness Marine Atlantic has implemented the following precautionary measures to prevent such an uncharacteristic roll from reoccurring.
  • Reinforced operational procedures for hydraulic oil levels in the header tanks for stabilizers
  • Reinforced steering and manoeuvring characteristics of the vessel with all Helmsmen
  • Instructed Officers to confine rudder angles to less than 10 degrees when the vessel is travelling over 17 knots
  • Instructed that stabilizers be used at all possible times. Should a situation arise when only one stabilizer is operational, the autopilot will be used whenever possible
  • Reinforced heavy weather procedures relating to the securing of items and cargo
  • Reminded Captains to make announcements regarding expected weather and sea conditions prior to departure and during crossing when conditions warrant

"The MV Blue Puttees and MV Highlanders are safe, stable and reliable vessels for our customers. Canadian and International marine experts were involved in all aspects of the modification project, completing daily inspections and oversight which culminated in certification of the vessels. These vessels are built to the highest international standards for passenger ferries and hold all necessary certificates for passenger safety."

Marine Atlantic enlisted the assistance of external resources to review all data and initial conclusions of the internal review. These independent experts include Master Mariner Chris Hearn, the Marine Institute's Director for the Centre for Marine Simulation; Claude Daley, Ph.D. from Memorial University's Ocean and Naval Architectural Engineering Department; and Carl Harris, M.Eng., and James Millan, Ph.D. from the National Research Council-Institute of Ocean Technology.

The incident was the result of a combination of a series of contributing factors that all culminated and aligned at a precise moment in time. The wave period, the vessel roll period and the rudder movement period were each in the range of 10 to 11 seconds and when all three aligned this affect created a resonance which amplified the angle of the roll. Also, the loss of one stabilizer reduced the roll dampening effectiveness of the stabilizer system.

"We concluded very early in the investigation that the safety of the vessel was not in question. We are also highly confident in our crew's knowledge, commitment, training and ability to operate our vessels. The local marine experts we consulted verified the initial results of our investigation and reaffirmed the safety of the vessel. We have already implemented precautionary measures and will continue to do so in the coming days. Safety is our top priority and we are committed to providing a safe and reliable ferry service for our customers."

Marine Atlantic is pleased with the performance of MV Blue Puttees since it went into operation four weeks ago. We are confident that the MV Blue Puttees and the MV Highlanders are good vessels which will significantly improve the service to our customers and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in terms of enhanced on time capacity and customer service. Our crews like these vessels; they have embraced them and are proud to welcome our customers onboard these new ships.

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Media Contact:

Tara Laing, Communications Manager