01 June 2006

Placentia Bay no place for a tired ship's pilot

According to NTV News, the Atlantic Pilotage Authority (APA) is blaming crew fatigue for the accident that sent one of its two small boats (Left. Photo: APA) in Placentia Bay part way up the rocks on Buffett Island on Monday, injuring one crew member and causing an unspecified amount of damage to the $3.0 million aluminum hulled boat.

The APA pilots guide tankers laden with Iraqi and Grand Banks crude up the bay to moorings at the Come by Chance oil refinery or the Whiffen Head transshipment terminal. The picture at right shows the bows of Canship Ugland's tanker M.V. Mattea. (Photo: Canship Ugland)

Placentia Bay is no desolate place. There are bird colonies, rich fishing grounds and a host of other sensitive wildlife in the bay. A recent report supporting the establishment of an improved regional management system for the bay noted it is the most likely spot in Canada for a major oil spill.

So here's the thing: if the guys piloting their own small boat were so tired they put her up on the rocks on what appears to have been a calm, clear day, what's to prevent them from nodding off when they are guiding one of the tankers into or out of such a sensitive marine environment?

No one else seems to be thinking about that.

Personal note: As indicated earlier my mother's family comes from Harbour Buffett, the harbour to which the wracked-up APA pilot boat was towed. She's a Collett and her father's family can trace back to Thomas who arrived in Buffett in the early 19th century. On her mother's side, the Marshall have an equally old - if not older - history in Newfoundland.

According to NTV, the guy who did the towing was named Stan Hollett. Stan is no relation to your humble e-scribbler, at least not for about five or six generations, but my mother recalled him from Buffett before the community was resettled. He apparently moved back some years ago and lives there pretty much year round. In itself, Stan's story is worth further investigation as is the history of the old community. It is picturesque, close to rich fishing grounds and once was a fairly prosperous little town.

In this instance, thankfully Stan and another fisherman were nearby to lend assistance to the APA. Otherwise this might have been a tragedy.