Marine Safety Advisory Letter No. 02/18

Place du Centre
200 Promenade du Portage, 4th Floor
Gatineau QC  K1A 1K8

Letter addressed to:
Transport Canada, 1000 Islands and Seaway Cruises, Gananoque Boat Line, Kingston 1000 Islands Cruises, and Rockport Cruises

Re :

Marine Safety Advisory Letter No. 02/18 – Safety Issues on Passenger Vessels
Navigating in the Thousand Islands Area

On 08 August 2017, at approximately 1250 Eastern Daylight Time, the passenger vessel Island Queen III was on a cruise in the Thousand Islands area of the St. Lawrence Riverwith 274 passengers on board when it made bottom contact off Kingston, ON. The vessel’s steering was damaged and the steering compartment sustained water ingress. There were no injuries or pollution. The vessel was able to return to the dock approximately 40 minutes later. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada investigation into this occurrence is ongoing (TSB Occurrence M17C0179).

The investigation thus far has identified safety issues relating to emergency preparedness, passenger management, lifesaving equipment, and evacuation procedures. The TSB had reasons to believe that these safety issues might also be present on other similar vessels in the Thousand Islands area. As a result, on 08 and 09 October 2017, TSB investigators visited four other vessels operated by four different companies in the same geographical area and identified the following safety issues on one or more of the vessels:

Emergency and passenger management

  • Pre-departure safety briefings that were inaudible or inadequate to provide passengers with steps to take in case of emergency, to familiarize them with the general alarm and what to do if it sounds, to inform them of the nearest location to lifejackets storage lockers, and to specify the location of muster stations.
  • Pre-departure safety briefings that did not include a demonstration of how to properly don a lifejacket.
  • A lack of enforcement over the number of passengers on each deck. The upper deck passenger count often considerably exceeded the marked limit and the vessel listed during passenger movement.
  • Communication difficulties in providing instructions to large groups of foreign language passengers.
  • Crew members that were not attired in a manner that made them easily identifiable to passengers.

Lifesaving equipment

  • An insufficient number of lifejackets that were hard to locate and disorganized (i.e. children’s and adult’s lifejackets were mixed together).
  • Lifejackets that were outdated (30 - 40 years old) and worn out. Some were without official approval markings.
  • Lifejacket lockers that were blocked by furniture, music band equipment, and/or food and beverage items, leaving little room to access and don lifejackets.
  • Signage for lifejacket locations that was eroded or hidden and did not indicate the number of lifejackets available at each location for either adults or children.
  • Crew members that did not comply with passengers’ requests to don a lifejacket as a precaution.
  • Lifesaving equipment plans that were hard to understand and inconsistent (i.e. they contained different types of symbols, some of which did not depict the actual equipment locations).
  • Life raft locations, launching areas, and boarding devices that were unsafe, especially for elderly or disabled passengers and children.

Muster stations and passageways

  • Muster station areas that were too small to accommodate the number of passengers on board.
  • Muster stations and emergency exits with eroded or hidden signage.
  • Stairways, muster stations, and boarding areas that were obstructed with bins and other trip  hazards that could hinder passenger movement during an emergency.
  • Large and heavy objects such as furniture, fire axes, and bins that were not safely secured to prevent movement during an emergency.

Other observations

  • Fire equipment and associate signage that was hidden by furniture, poorly maintained, and/or had missing or incomplete inspection labels.
  • Exit doors on lower decks that were locked one side. Large heavy sliding doors that were not secured with appropriate mechanisms to prevent them from suddenly closing and blocking an exit during vessel listing.
  • Navigating personnel that were carrying out multiple duties while simultaneously navigating. In one case, a close quarters situations occurred while the crew member navigating was focused on providing tour information.

The aforementioned is provided in advance of the 2018 cruise season so that you may take whatever measures are considered appropriate in the circumstances. The TSB would appreciate being advised of any such action. Moreover, an investigator may follow up with you at a later date.

A similar letter has also been sent to each of the four companies where some of these safety issues were identified.

Yours sincerely,

Original signed by

Marc-André Poisson
Director of Investigations – Marine


  • Transport Canada, Kingston Office
  • Passenger & Commercial Vessel

Background information

Occurrence No.

  • M17C0179
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