Towboat and domestic vessel safety culture

20th Towboat Conference

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John Clarkson, Board Member
Member, Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Victoria, British Columbia, 25 May 2013

Check against delivery.

Slide 1: Title page

Good morning. Today I'll talk about domestic vessel safety culture in the towboat industry.

Slide 2: Outline

The Transportation Safety Board has a clear mission and mandate: to advance transportation safety by conducting independent investigations into selected transportation occurrences, identifying the causes and contributing factors, and publically communicating what we learn so that steps can be taken to prevent it from happening again. In short, we find out what happened and why, and thenget that information to the public, to operators, to regulators, and everyone else best-placed to take action. Our recommendations are used for systemic, hard-to-solve challenges and issues.

Slide 3: About the TSB

The structure and mandate of the TSB is based on the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation Safety Board Act. We are an independent agency, which is crucial in order that the TSB can fulfill its mandate to the people of Canada without interference from any external source.

Slide 4: Watchlist 2012

The Watchlist is our "blueprint for change." It identifies the nine issues posing the greatest risk to Canadians, and is based on hundreds of TSB investigation reports, as well as many safety concerns and Board recommendations. For each of these nine issues, the TSB has found that action taken to date has been inadequate, and we want industry and regulators to take additional concrete measures to eliminate the risks.

In the case of marine transportation, the current iteration of the Watchlist targets Marine Safety Management Systems and the Loss of Life on Fishing Vessels. However, as you can see, Air Safety Management Systems are also on the Watchlist.

Slide 5: Past towboat and barge incidents

For this presentation, an analysis was conducted of TSB marine investigation reports. We identified specific incidents involving towboats and barge operations in Canada.

As you can see, reports relating to the towboat industry are just a small percentage of the overall marine reports.

Slide 6: Specific incidents

The specific incidents identified in this slide are relating to barge operations, incidents with small commercial craft or pleasure craft, and to bridge strikings along British Columbia's Fraser River. These types of incidents have been identified in more than one report

Slide 7: Specific incidents (cont'd)

Note the third bullet: there have been 21 reported capsizings related to barge operations. (Again: not all of these incidents resulted in a full investigation and report.)

Slide 8: Marine Safety Management Systems Watchlist 2012)

The issue of SMS has been identified in the Watchlist as one of major concern, in part because many companies—such as smaller coastal marine operations—are not required to have one.

SMS has been shown in all transportation industries to have a significant positive effect on safety where properly applied.

Slide 9: Safety Management Systems

The general outline and structure of a robust SMS has been well established in all modes of transportation. In the marine industry, the focus is on the International Safety Management (ISM) Code as Chapter IX of SOLAS.Footnote 1

Although the ISM Code does not apply in general to domestic shipping, it does outline the basics of safety management practice. In general, an SMS should include a safety policy, appropriate procedures to safeguard the operation of a vessel, training of personnel, and non-punitive measures for reporting.

Slide 10: SMS (cont’d)

SMS is all about being proactive, and finding trouble before it finds you.

Here we continue to identify some aspects and considerations requiring attention if a solid successful SMS is to be incorporated in any transportation organization. While this list is not exhaustive, it identifies some of the main factors.

Slide 11: Role of governance/oversight

In order to have a successful SMS, there needs to be a clear regulatory requirement that is practical in nature and creates a level playing field for the industry. There’s no one level of an organization that bears sole responsibility for implementing an SMS, just as there is no single level of an organization that bears sole responsibility for its success. From the boardroom on down, there must be buy-in from everyone—and they’re all accountable. That includes shareholders, customers, management, and employees, together with the regulators.

Slide 12: SMS in regulation (Canada)

Currently, Transport Canada does not require SMS on all commercial vessels in Canada. Here are the basic points of the proposed Safety Management Regulations with regard to SMS in Canada. These regulations were put forward at the National Marine Advisory Council (CMAC) session in Ottawa in November 2012. As of the most recent CMAC meeting, in May 2013, there has been no further discussion.

Slides 13: Pilot scheme for domestic safety management (DSM)

As previously indicated, the base standard for SMS in the marine industry is the ISM Code under SOLAS. However, some nations have identified that the direct application of the ISM Code to some domestic marine operations may not be the most practical way to implement a successful SMS.

In this regard, the Council of Marine Carriers (CMC) and TC undertook a pilot SMS program that was derived from the ISM Code but adapted it to domestic towboat operations. It was called Domestic Safety Management (DSM) and was so successful that some companies have continued to develop an SMS, using the same criteria. The pilot program, however, was terminated by TC.

Slide 14:SMS in regulation (United States)

Some countries have already developed SMS programs that are not based on the ISM Code but that apply the same principles. One such nation is the United States, which now has regulations incorporating SMS requirements in a very similar manner to the DSM pilot program in Canada. The outline on the next two slides is taken directly from U.S. text.

The American Waterways Operator (AWO) is the U.S. body equivalent to Canada’s CMC, and worked closely with the United States Coast Guard (USCG) to develop these regulations.

Slide 15: Factors in establishing an SMS (U.S.)

Here is an overview of the factors deemed relevant to the establishment of SMS to the domestic U.S. towboat industry.  The U.S. Coast Guard is relying on approved third parties to verify compliance with the new regulations, which is a similar process to delegated authorities in Canada.

Slide 16: Watchlist video (Marine SMS)

Slide 17: Future of the industry

The towboat industry is a safe and proactive industry within the marine community.  Nonetheless, there are everyday challenges and dangers facing towboat mariners. These include the need to master difficult inshore marine operations, the environmental and navigational conditions faced when towing along the Canadian Coast, and ship-assist docking in our ports.

The towboat industry deserves the acknowledgement of the vital contribution it plays in the Canadian Marine industry in Canada.

Slide 18:Conclusions

A robust, well-founded SMS has been proven to be effective, but all elements must be followed for it to be truly successful. One key component is the culture of an industry, and this is true in all transportation industries, whether it be in aviation, rail, pipeline operations or the marine industry.

The transition to SMS is not always easy, either. It requires commitment and perseverance, from both labour and management, but it also needs the organization’s culture to adapt.

Slide 19:Questions?

Rasmussen suggests that, under the influence of pressure toward cost-effectiveness in an aggressive, competitive environment, organizations tend to migrate to the limits of acceptable performance. In other words, they drift.

Slide 20: Canada wordmark


Footnote 1

International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea

Return to footnote 1 referrer