Without more serious criminal charges, some companies will continue putting their employees lives needlessly at risk, or death, as nothing more than a cost of doing business.
That’s what Tsawwassen resident Genevieve Cragg told the Optimist this week after charges were laid against a tug and barge company and one of its officials following a tugboat accident two years ago, which claimed the life of her 25-year-old son Charley and its captain 58-year-old Troy Pearson.
Charley died on his first day on the job.
The MV Ingenika sank in stormy waters south of Kitimat while towing a barge on Feb. 11 2021.
Eight counts have been laid against Wainwright Marine Services and Bates Properties Ltd. president James Geoffrey Bates, whose company includes Wainwright Marine.
The charges allege violations of occupational health and safety regulations under the Workers Compensation Act.
The charges include, among other things, failing to maintain protective equipment in good condition, failing to ensure the health and safety of workers and failing to provide young or new workers proper health and safety training.
Genevieve says her son, who was born and raised in Tsawwassen, and his crew should never have been put in that dangerous situation.
“Unless criminal charges are laid, it sends a message to industry and marine workers that death in the workplace is the cost of doing business,” she said.
Jason Woods, president of ILWU Local 400 Marine Section and General Workers said it is disappointing Crown has not put forward more serious charges.
“I don't think it's enough. This employer is one of the most dangerous on the coast. I don't think even if given the full penalty it will not act as a deterrent to themselves or other employers to run their companies safely. Unfortunately, injuries, accidents and death are just the cost of doing business in the marine sector,” he said.
In a news release Friday, the union said tug workers along B.C.’s entire coast marked the second anniversary of the sinking of the Ingenika and the deaths of two seafarers with an urgent demand for an end to Ottawa’s failed voluntary safety-inspection system, and immediate redirection of the program’s funds toward hiring inspectors to conduct mandatory inspections.
Genevieve said regulations need to be strengthened including more enforcement, mandatory inspections for vessels regardless of size as well as rules for vessels towing ships relative to their size, so smaller tugs are not towing huge barges.
She said federal Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra needs to understand lives are needlessly being put at risk.
“He needs to know that change needs to happen because this continues to go on. There are already regulations in place that need to be enforced, but they don’t enforce them, and there needs to be new regulations,” she added.
The International Transport Workers' Federation last year, on the first anniversary of the tragedy, issued a statement demanding action for a safer tug industry in B.C. and Canada, “We now have a system that puts a few dollars before the lives and livelihoods of tug workers, while shipping companies and lead firms are making tremendous profits.”
According to Transport Canada, Wainwright and Bates Properties were fined a total of $62,000 last year for violations.
The Transportation Safety Board investigation report into the MV Ingenika sinking has not been released.