News release

Loss of propulsion of a tug on the South Arm Fraser River in British Columbia in 2014 highlights the need to follow manufacturer’s guidance for engine maintenance

Vancouver, British Colombia, 21 November 2014 – In its investigation report (M14P0023) released today on the February 2014 loss of propulsion of a tug on the South Arm Fraser River in British Columbia, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) highlighted the need to follow manufacturer’s recommendations for engine maintenance.

On 11 February 2014, the tug Jose Narvaez sustained a loss of propulsion due to a main engine seizure while towing an empty barge down the South Arm Fraser River in British Columbia. The tug and barge were towed back to the dock and secured. The main engine was deemed a constructive loss. There were no injuries or pollution.

The investigation determined that the lubricating oil was contaminated with combustion, freshwater, and/or anti-freeze, because the system had never been completely flushed out and cleaned after past major engine failures—even though this was recommended by the manufacturer. Investigators also found that the oil cooler was not maintained as per the manufacturer's recommendations, and it developed internal leaks that further contaminated the oil system, ultimately resulting in a loss in oil pressure. Furthermore, the loss of lubrication and piston cooling caused by the contaminated oil caused the engine cylinders to overheat. This further exacerbated the overheating of the rest of the engine and eventually led to its seizure and loss of propulsion.

Following the occurrence, Lafarge, the owner/operator of the tug, initiated weekly meetings to review safety procedures, drills, and preventive maintenance at the beginning of a shift. They also replaced the main engine and the cooling system on the Jose Narvaez, including upgrades to the monitoring system and alarm panel.


The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-994-8053
Email: media@tsb.gc.ca