Crash-prone passenger ferry removed from service in Quebec

Passenger ship Apollo was involved in collision for a third time in two months while docking at a wharf in Quebec. Credit: RFBailey - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has removed a passenger ferry from service in Quebec after it crashed for a third time in two months while docking at a wharf in Quebec.

According to a spokesperson for Quebec’s provincial ferries, the most recent collison created a gaping hole of approximately three feet by six feet wide in the bow of the Apollo. No passengers or crew were injured during the incident.

Following the latest collision, the provincial Crown corporation that oversees ferry services in Quebec immediately sent TSB investigators to the scene who found more evidence of damage to the vessel than originally anticipated. They later announced that the Apollo will no longer sail because of the risk of further damage and the cost of repairs.

Upon examining the 1970-built, 108.7metre-long ferry TSB investigators found that the vessel was badly damaged in other areas due to previous collisions. Therefore, FSB investigators expanded the scope of their investigations from investigating the single most-recent incident to looking at the previous vessel’s operations when sailing under different ownership.

The passenger ferry had been purchased for the sum of CAN$2.1 million by la Société des traversiers du Québec as a temporary replacement after another ferry, the F.-A.-Gauthier, which was sent to dry dock in December 2018. At the time of the multiple incidents that took place during February and March 2019, Apollo was servicing the routes between Matane in the Gaspé region of Quebec and Baie-Comeau and Godbout on Quebec’s North Shore.

TSB investigator, Francois Dumont, told The Canadian Press that multiple problems were identified, from the watertightness of the hull to the presence of fire protection and rescue equipment.

Dumont said, “This is long-term deterioration. This boat was clearly unloved, it lacked supervision and maintenance. We are going to dig over the coming weeks to find the reason why this boat was sailing between St. Barbe, N.L. and Blanc Sablon in Quebec.”

“There is serious doubt about the seaworthiness of the ship and its level of safety for passengers and crew,” he stated.

Interim president of the Quebec ferry corporation, Stephane Lafaut, said the purchase of the Apollo was made in good faith and that it was the only ship available at the time, but he had no reason to question its seaworthiness.