MV QUEEN OF THE NORTH

MV QUEEN OF THE NORTH
Official No: 0368854
Place Built: Bremerhaven, Germany
Builder: A/G Weser Werk Seebeck
Year Built: 1969
Vehicles: 115
Passengers: 480-650
Crew: 60-65
Overall Length: 125 m
Breadth: 19.2 m
Gross Tons: 8,806
Service Speed: 20 knots
Horsepower: 15,600

At around 0025, Wednesday March 22, 2006, the Queen of the North apparently hit Gill Island and sank in Wright Sound about an hour and 15 minutes later. The ferry was southbound, about 130 km south of Prince Rupert. As of Thursday evening, there are still two passengers missing. The other 99 passengers and crew made it safely onto lifeboats and life rafts. Passengers were quickly picked up by boats from nearby Hartley Bay and by the Canadian Coast Guard Vessel Sir Wilfred Laurier.

Overview

T he Queen of the North is one of two cruise-type ferries operated by BC Ferries on its northern routes. The newer of the two, the Queen of the North mainly operates from late spring to early fall on the Inside Passage route, and when needed on the Prince Rupert to Skidegate (Queen Charlotte Islands) route. The summer day-cruise Inside Passage trip is especially popular with tourists; 274 nautical miles and approximately 15 hours of spectacular coastal scenery.

Today

Once the flagship of the fleet, travelling on the Queen of the North is still a luxury compared to most of the other ferries on the coast. The ferry features many amenities: the Evergreen Buffet, Dogwood Bar, Passages Gift Shop, Medical Room, Lighthouse Cafe, several lounges including a pay lounge, a video arcade, a kids room, and 46 staterooms. The ship is accessible to people with disabilities. There are three passenger decks and plenty of room on the outside as well to enjoy the beautiful scenery pass by.

To enable the ferry to hold additional cars, it is equipped with a raise-able platform deck on the vehicle level. The Queen of the North along with the Queen of Prince Rupert have bows that raise while docked bow-first to allow traffic to load and unload via the front of the vessel.

The Queen of the North (and all the other northern vessels) is a so-called „single compartment ship,” that is if only one of the hull’s several watertight compartments is flooded the ferry should stay afloat. This is now considered unsafe and the ferry was due to be replaced before 2012 when Transport Canada plans to enforce new regulations.

The Queen of the North is powered by two 7,800 horsepower diesel engines which turn two variable pitch propellers. The ship is the fastest in the BC Ferry fleet, with a service speed of 19 knots and a maximum speed of 23 knots. In the event of a serious emergency, evacuation would be through a Jacobs Ladder system to access life rafts at water level. The Queen of the North has four evacuation systems, which have a combined capacity of 750 people. In addition to the life rafts, there are two 53-person life boats, and a 5-person rescue boat.

Unlike ferries on the south coast, the Queen of the North’s crew live on board the vessel. Each crew group is divided into two 12-hour shifts. There are two complete crews, each one working 14 days on, 14 days off. With a crew ranging from 60-65, the Queen of the North has the largest crew of any ferry in the fleet.

History

T he Stena Danica was built in 1969 in Bremerhaven, Germany. Built for Stena Lines (Sweden), the ferry was put into service between Stockholm, Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark. There is a postcard showing the Stena Danica in G?org, Sweden as well, so it is likely that she was used on other routes as well.

The Stena Danica was purchased by BC Ferries in 1974 for $13.8 million because of a shortage in ships and capacity. She was immediately renamed Queen of Surrey and put into service between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay. The single-ended ship was found unsuitable for the short routes on the south coast. For several years the Queen of Surrey was parked at the Deas Dock maintenance facility. In 1980 the ferry underwent a major overhaul to prepare her for the northern routes and she was renamed the Queen of the North. Her first trip between Prince Rupert and Port Hardy was on May 29th, 1980.

As the flagship of the fleet, the Queen of the North was sometimes pressed into special duty in the 1980’s. On May 1, 1986, the ferry took Prince Charles and Princess Diana from Nanaimo to Vancouver to open the Expo ’86 world fair. On ‚Port Day’ in 1988, the Queen of the North was open for public tours at Ballantyne Pier.

The Queen of the North was pulled out of service in mid-October 1994 following the findings into the causes of the sinking of the Estonia in the Baltic Sea. On September 28, 1994, the Estonia ferry sank between Estonia and Sweden, killing 852 of the 989 passengers on board. The cause was found to be a fault in the bow visor of the vessel which broke off in heavy seas allowing water to enter the car deck. Since the Queen of the North and Queen of Prince Rupert have similar designs, both ferries were pulled from service on the Friday before the Thanksgiving long weekend to have their bow doors welded shut. In the process, passengers and freight were stranded on the Queen Charlotte Islands. The ferries returned to service less than a week later. This emergency safety precaution was later undone and additional safety measures were put in place to compensate.

On the morning of September 16th, 2000, the Queen of the North played a role in a tragic story that took place on the waters off Prince Rupert. In the early hours of the morning, seven teens left Dodge Cove in an open boat to cross Prince Rupert harbour. In heavy seas, the boat was swamped and overturned. When word went out later that morning that the seven were missing, the Canadian Coast Guard organized a search effort. Three crew members from the Queen of the North, which was at dock in Prince Rupert, were sent out on the ferry’s rescue boat. They rescued one member of the group who hanging onto a buoy in the middle of the harbour. They also picked up three others who had made it to shore on a nearby island. Sadly, three members of the group perished.

In October, 2000, the Queen of the North underwent a major refit that saw the interior of the vessel refurbished, the cafeteria redesigned, and the emergency equipment updated.

The ferry played the role of ambulance on July 15, 2005. A man at Hartley Bay (a small outpost along the Inside Passage south of Prince Rupert) suffered what was believed to be a heart attack. Due to bad weather and low clouds, an air ambulance evacuation was impossible. The nearby Queen of the North was diverted to pick the man up and take him to Prince Rupert. With the help of the ferry and two doctors and two nurses on board at the time, the man made it safely to a hospital.

Sex may have sunk B.C. ferry

Canadian Press

Published: Thursday, February 08, 2008

TORONTO – The federal Transportation Safety Board says it looked into whether sex was taking place on the bridge of the B.C. ferry Queen of the North when it sank last year. A board spokesman tells the Toronto Star that scenario was part of its investigation.

A B.C. Ferries spokesperson acknowledges there has been speculation about sex playing a role in the sinking but wouldn’t comment further. A draft report on the sinking — in which two of the 101 passengers are missing and presumed dead — is to be delivered to the board within days. The draft report goes next to interested parties for comment and a final report is expected in three to six months.

© The Edmonton Journal 2007

Canadian Press

Published: Wednesday, March 22, 2006

VANCOUVER (CP) – Rescuers plucked dozens of people from lifeboats off B.C.’s north coast early Wednesday after a large ferry hit a rock and sank in choppy seas and high winds. All of the 101 people aboard were rescued and accounted for, B.C. Ferries said in a statement released several hours after the incident. Most of them were taken to a community centre in Hartley Bay where workers there had given them blankets and coffee. None were immediately available to speak to the media. The Queen of the North was sailing south to Port Hardy from Prince Rupert, a 450-kilometre trip along what’s known as B.C.’s Inside Passage, a series of islands just off the north coast of the province.

The 125-metre-long vessel was reported to be completely submerged about 135 kilometres from Prince Rupert after hitting the rock, listing to one side and then sinking. Nicole Robinson, a receptionist at the nursing station in Hartley Bay, said she talked to several members of the ferry’s crew who were sleeping when the ship began to take on water. „They heard a loud bang like it grinded a bit and they said the cabin started filling with water,” she said. Some people were hurt, but not seriously, said Robinson. Many were „stunned.” „We’ve just had a few patients come and go, minor injuries. The community all got together with blankets; everybody’s pretty cold but they’re all down at a community hall,” Robinson said. Hartley Bay resident Wally Bolton, helping out at the village cultural centre where the ferry evacuees were taken, said a medivac helicopter was taking some passengers with minor injuries to Prince Rupert. „I know there’s one head injury and I think there’s a sprained wrist and a case of high blood pressure,” Bolton said. „All the rest of the other people are OK.” Bolton said the evacuees were shook up and tired. Rescuers were on the scene soon after the 12:43 a.m. incident, said Capt. Leah Byrne of the Search and Rescue Centre in Victoria. „The joint rescue co-ordination centre dispatched a large number of assets to the scene, including a cormorant helicopter and buffalo aircraft,” she said. Shelby Robinson, 13, said the entire village of Hartley Bay, with about 200 residents, pitched in when the distress call came in. „I stayed here to get ready for them when they came in, get blankets ready and everything,” she said.

Robinson confirmed fishermen from the isolated village rushed out to help evacuate the sinking ferry. „Most of the guys went out and got their boats running right away and they took people in by groups,” she said, adding witness said the ferry was listing to one side. Seas were reported to be choppy and winds were blowing at about 75 kilometres per hour. „From what we hear, it took about an hour for the ship to sink so most of the people did manage to get onto lifeboats,” Byrne said. „There was an orderly evacuation of personnel from the vessel, including passengers and crew.”

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