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Backgrounder of Marine Investigation M04N0086

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada Releases its Final Report into the Capsizing of the Ryan's Commander, Newfoundland and Labrador, in 2004

On September 19, 2004, the small fishing vessel Ryan's Commander, weighing 149.4 gross tons, departed Bay de Verde, Newfoundland and Labrador, for a trip to its home port of St. Brendan's (Cottel Island), Newfoundland and Labrador. The trip was uneventful as the vessel proceeded on a northerly course. At approximately 18:00 Newfoundland daylight time, the vessel was about seven nautical miles off Cape Bonavista, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the course was altered toward the northwest. During the next 30 minutes, with the vessel running beam to the wind and sea, it experienced three heavy rolls to port. It recovered from the first two; however, the third roll left the vessel on its beam-ends. A distress message was transmitted and the crew of six abandoned ship into an inflatable liferaft. One crew member was subsequently rescued from the liferaft by a search and rescue helicopter. The remaining five crew members were thrown from the liferaft into the water as it came ashore. There were two fatalities.

The current Small Fishing Vessel Inspection Regulations require that only some small fishing vessels submit stability data for approval. In May 2003, Transport Canada (TC) looked at modernizing stability requirements and establishing stability standards for all small fishing vessels. These changes were scheduled to come into force in mid-2007. On November 21, 2005, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) recommended that TC take immediate action to deal with the stability of small fishing vessels. The recommendation came as part of the investigation. The Board recommended that:

The Department of Transport ensure that the Board's previous recommendations M03-05 and M03-06 are immediately implemented.
TSB Recommendation M05-04

The recommendation called for "the immediate implementation" by TC of recommendations originally issued by the TSB in November 2003 as part of the Cap Rouge II investigation. Following its investigation into the Cap Rouge II, the Board believed that, irrespective of the type of fish being caught, all small fishing vessels should meet minimum transverse intact stability characteristics. At that time, the Board recommended that:

The Department of Transport require all new inspected small fishing vessels of closed construction to submit stability data for approval.
TSB Recommendation M03-05

and that:

The Department of Transport require all existing inspected small fishing vessels currently without any approved stability data be subjected to a roll period test and a corresponding freeboard verification not later than their next scheduled quadrennial inspection.
TSB Recommendation M03-06

In its 2004-2005 Annual Report to Parliament, the Board made public its assessment of TC's response to the original recommendations (M03-05 and M03-06) as "Unsatisfactory," citing the continued risk for these vessels. The Board has received TC's response to the 2005 recommendation (M05-04) and has assessed it as "Fully Satisfactory."

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The public reports M04N0086 and M02W0147, and the Communiqué are available on this site.