(WASHINGTON) — Fatigue and complacency led a Washington State Ferries (WSF) passenger and car vessel to strike a mooring dolphin at a Seattle ferry terminal last year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said Thursday. The contact resulted in $10.3 million in damage to the ferry and $300,000 in damage to the dolphin.
The ferry Cathlamet had crossed Puget Sound with 94 people on board and was approaching the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal on July 28, 2022, when it struck the ferry terminal dolphin. One minor injury was reported.
The master did not take any action to correct the ferry’s course, slow down or sound the alarm before the contact. He also did not recall what happened and seemed unaware of how the ferry ended up striking the dolphin. Investigators found these events were all consistent with incapacitation from a microsleep, a brief period of sleep lasting a few seconds, due to fatigue.
“Fatigue affects all aspects of human performance, including decision-making, alertnessand reaction time,” NTSB investigators said in the final report. “Mariners should understand the performance effects of sleep loss and recognize the dangers of fatigue, such as microsleeps. When affected by fatigue, mariners should arrange for a qualified watch stander to serve in their place and avoid being on duty when unable to safely carry out their responsibilities.”
The NTSB also found the Cathlamet bridge team exhibited complacency by not complying with WSF policies when undocking and docking the ferry. The Cathlamet quartermaster did not actively monitor the master as the ferry approached the dock, as required by company policy. Had he done so, he could have quickly taken the helm when the master became incapacitated.
“Complacency occurs when operators repeatedly complete a task without consequence, desensitizing them to its inherent risk,” the report said. “To combat complacency, operators should comply with procedures, such as operating checklists, that are in place to prevent single points of failure, and companies should train operators on the importance of following procedures.”
Click here to read the complete report.