01/19/2012 01:20 EST | Updated 03/20/2012 05:12 EDT

BC Ferries safety record gets thumbs-up

BC Ferries has received a thumbs-up for significant improvements to its safety practices, in a follow-up report by former auditor general George Morfitt released on Thursday morning.

Morfitt was originally commissioned to evaluate the company's safety practices in 2006, following the sinking of the Queen of the North.

His first report issued in 2007 found the ferry system was safe, but noted tension between the union and management created a dysfunctional situation and posed a significant impediment to resolving safety issues.

In his new report Morfitt says the two sides have worked together to improve safety practices, noting there's more trust and respect in the workplace.

"We found that awareness about, and actions taken in regards to, safety have increased substantially since we carried out our last review. Considering that many of our recommendations were of a complex nature and necessarily would take a considerable time to implement, the progress to date made by the company in respect of the recommendations is highly commendable,” said Morfitt in the report.

Morfitt found out his 41 original safety recommendations, 28 had been fully or substantially implemented, 12 were partially implemented and one item remained outstanding.

BC Ferries new CEO Mike Corrigan credited better relations between management and union for the improvements.

"I think it's the partnership we have with the union and our employees and their commitment to safety. That's been fundamental and that's really been the building block where we built our new safety culture from."

One of the potential risks Morfitt flagged in 2007 was large vessels passing each other in the narrow waters of Active Pass on the route linking Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay through the Gulf Islands.

Corrigan also said BC Ferries has taken steps to reduce the risk, putting more officers on the bridge with more modern technology to track any other vessels.

The report comes out as BC Ferries deals with several recent breakdowns and crashes that have taxed the Crown corporation's capacity on busy weekends.