Video Length: 5 minutes and 23 seconds
From fishing vessels to water taxis, tugboats to police craft, small non-pleasure vessels are a common sight on Canada’s waters. But accidents can happen at any time – and to anyone. As the operator of a small non-pleasure vessel, it’s your responsibility to make sure your vessel operates safely and is properly equipped for emergencies. Passenger vessels are a great way for people to see Canada’s sights. But when they’re on your vessel, their safety is in your hands.
“A lot of times clients get aboard my boat and they’re a little bit out of their element; maybe they haven’t been in a boat, maybe they haven’t been around water. So it’s my job to ensure that they’re comfortable and safe and I do that by telling them exactly where everything is in the boat and some basic rules so that no one gets injured or hurt on my vessel.”
Before heading out with passengers, make sure your crew knows how to find and use the life-saving equipment on your vessel. This includes lifejackets, life rafts, first aid kits and fire extinguishers. They also need to know what to do if a passenger panics or is injured during the voyage. You’re also required to leave a sail plan with a trusted person on shore – maybe somebody from your corporate office or local marina. A sail plan includes details like your travel route and the number of people on board – vital information to helpi ng search and rescue services find you if there’s an emergency.
“One thing in Labrador that is really difficult is communication. We don’t have cell service access throughout the entire region so a lot of things like spot units or epirbs or satellite phones are something that we find really useful to have on you, on hand, when you are in areas where you don’t have cell coverage.”
Footage of Man Giving Instructions:
“The water-level conditions are very good; we’re 80 centimeters above…”
Finally, you must give your passengers a safety briefing before the voyage begins – similar to those given on an aircraft. As you know, you must have an appropriate-sized lifejacket or personal floatation device for each person on your vessel. Your briefing needs to tell passengers where these are located, how to put them on and how to use them properly. Tell your passengers how to avoid on-board hazards like ropes and lines. Also make sure they know the location of safety equipment, including the life raft, if you have one. You must also tell passengers the procedures to follow in the event of an emergency.
“For all our small vessels, before boarding we talk to everyone about things like wearing belts and lifejackets, putting them on properly, making sure that everyone will be able to do it. Then, when we leave, we explain the various safety rules that we have, too: don’t stand up, don’t use the equipment; we have a foghorn, flares, all that kind of equipment.”
“We have a zone where people are allowed to sit in, when the boat is moving, without lifejackets. I have to get people to stay in there because regulations mandate that there is something to prevent people from falling in the water and not all of the boat has that. Because of the operation with the scuba equipment and the crane to bring people in we couldn’t have barriers on all sides. So we’re quite strict about that.
“Owners of small vessels have an obligation to ensure compliance, which is outlined in the Canada Shipping Act, 2001. One of the tools by which they can meet that obligation is the Small Vessel Compliance Program.”
To help operators better understand their legal responsibilities, Transport Canada has developed the Small Vessel Compliance Program. It includes an easy-to-use checklist to help you make sure your vessel is meeting its safety requirements.
“It’s a guide for boat owners or authorized representatives, so it helps owners a lot with complying with the Transport Canada regulations.”
Small vessel operators enrolled in the program are given a blue decal to display on their vessel, indicating their commitment to safety.
“You can’t get enough information when you’re out on these things in the conditions that we find ourselves in sometimes. So I really am sold on what the Blue Decal is all about and I will continue to try to sell it to other people. I wish there were more people that had it out here.”
“They’re my boats, it’s my company, and the safety of our clients comes first.”
“Why did I sign up for the SVCP? Because it’s my vessel, my business, and my responsibility.”
For more information about the Small Vessel Compliance Program – or about safety procedures for passenger vessels – visit the Transport Canada Marine Safety website.