Coast Guard fines Washington ferry jumper $5,000

The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(SEATTLE) (April 8) — The captain of the port, Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound, issued a $5,000 civil penalty on Friday to a Washington State Ferry passenger who intentionally jumped overboard prior to the vessel's departure from the Bremerton ferry terminal.

On March 21, an adult male passenger aboard the Washington State Ferry Kaleetan intentionally jumped overboard, sustained significant injuries and was recovered by ferry crewmembers aboard a rescue boat.

"Crewmembers are responsible for passenger safety, and in this case, their attention was diverted away from the safe operation of the vessel,” said Chief Warrant Officer Brian Hennessy, a member of the investigations and inspections division at Sector Puget Sound. “Fortunately for the person in the water, Washington State Ferry crewmembers are highly trained, and were able to swiftly recover the person, while keeping the remaining passengers safe."

Rail jumping, or an attempt to enter the water without permission of the vessel's captain, interferes with the safe operation of a vessel and is subject to a maximum civil penalty of $30,000.

The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1998 amended 46 USC 2302(a) by adding “or interfering with the safe operation of a vessel, so as to endanger” the life, limb or property of a person. While the previous version of the statute only allowed an operator to be charged, this amendment provided the Coast Guard the ability to pursue a civil penalty against any individual that interfered with the safe operation of a vessel.

An example of such interference includes instances where a passenger intentionally jumps off a commercial vessel that is not intended to support water activities.

By Professional Mariner Staff