Public has a right to know ferries’ emergency plans, says local MLA

North Island MLA Claire Trevena isn't thrilled about the blacked out portions on BC Ferries emergency plans

The public should not be left in the dark regarding specific evacuation plans about B.C. Ferries vessels, says North Island MLA Claire Trevena.

However, several details were blacked out after the NDP’s transportation critic received copies of the emergency plans.

“I’d like to ask the Minister of Transportation to explain why a freedom-of-information request about evacuation plans for each individual vessel in the fleet — information about passenger safety, information which is clearly in the public interest — has come back with page after page blanked out?” Trevena asked last week in the Legislature.

However, according to Hansard transcripts, the reply wasn’t very enlightening.

“I would also like to say that B.C. Ferries operates with the highest safety standards in the world. I want to thank the hard-working men and women of B.C. Ferries who diligently, day in, day out, do everything in their power to ensure that the ferries we travel on are as safe as they absolutely can be,” said Transportation Minister Todd Stone.

Trevena, who lives on Quadra Island, detailed the censored portions of the emergency plan pertaining to the Powell River Queen which operates between Campbell River and Quadra.

“Under General description, it says, ‘The vessel is fitted with’ — blank — ‘ESS slide systems’ — blank. Point 2 is blank. Point 3 is blank — ‘rescue boat’ — blank. ‘In charge evacuation’ — blank. On page 8, ‘Special needs passengers must be identified at the beginning of the emergency and’ — blank,” Trevena told fellow MLAs.

She also cited passages regarding the big Coastal class ferries that operate between Vancouver and Vancouver Island, “Those expensive German vessels — page after blanked-out page,” she said. “[And] ‘Abandon ship’ checkoff is blank.”

In response to the minister’s seemingly lack of a response, the NDP called on the government to provide full disclosure.

“We are calling on the government to explain this heavy-handed censorship,” Trevena said in a later news release. “How can it possibly serve the public interest to have evacuation plans only released on a need-to-know basis?”

The report contained evacuation plans for all the vessels in the fleet, some of which are nearly 50 years old, said Trevena. But nearly all information related to these plans was obscured before the report was released.