Two Washington State Ferries vessels were involved in accidents in the same location within three days of each other.
Five people were injured when the passenger ferry MV Snohomish bumped a wing wall as it was attempting to dock at Bremerton Terminal, Washington State Ferries said. The accident happened shortly after 1700 on Feb. 11.
Passengers who were standing up were knocked off balance, and the impact caused one man to slam into a window. The ferry agency said five passengers received medical treatment, mainly for bruises. Snohomish, carrying 140 passengers, struck the dock at an estimated 3 mph.
Ron Kinsey, the Coast Guardâ€™s investigating officer, said the accident caused no damage to the 143-foot vessel or the wood pilings. Passengers, however, were caught off guard.
â€œIt made a hard landing,â€ Kinsey said. â€œPart of the problem was that they were coming into the terminal, and they bumped one of the walls on the port side, and many people immediately stood up thinking they were already in the slip, and then it bumped again and that caught some people.â€
Three days earlier, on Feb. 8, the stern of the car ferry MV Yakima struck a concrete breakwater near the terminal during an aborted docking at 0150. The breakwater poked three small holes in Yakimaâ€™s hull. Washington State Ferries said the 382-foot vessel began taking on water and was pulled out of service for repairs.
Kinsey said high winds had blown Yakima away from the slip. The crew was backing the vessel to try again when it struck the breakwater.
When both accidents happened, the Port of Bremerton was in the midst of a marina construction project that reaches to within about 150 feet of the ferry slip. In statements following the Snohomish accident, Washington State Ferries said the construction project was causing problems for the ferries.
â€œThere was construction equipment in the way as the Snohomish attempted to land at Bremerton Terminal,â€ the ferry agency said. â€œThe vessel â€¦ tried to maneuver around the equipment and landed hard at the terminal.â€
At the time of the Snohomish accident, a well-lit tugboat hauling a piece of the new marina was about 150 feet to one side of the ferry slip, said Steve Slaton, director of port facilities for the Port of Bremerton.
Yakima struck a 1,440-foot-long floating wave attenuator that was installed in September 2007. Slaton said itâ€™s more than 400 feet from the ferriesâ€™ usual track line.
Slaton told Professional Mariner that the construction was never an impediment to the ferriesâ€™ path to their slips. The ferry officers may need to modify their old contingency plans, however, if they are confronted with the need to abort a landing.
â€œTheir track coming in looks the same to me,â€ Slaton said. â€œThey just canâ€™t back down into this area that was open before. They have to be conscious of especially the wind and conscious of what to do if they miss the approach.â€
Slaton, a former Navy captain who commanded submarines and surface ships, said he witnessed the Snohomish incident.
â€œThe fact is, they had too much headway on into the slip and just ran into the dock,â€ Slaton said.
Neither Washington State Ferries nor the Coast Guard reported any problems with navigation or propulsion equipment on the two vessels.
Kinsey said itâ€™s â€œdoubtfulâ€ that the construction project was a cause of the accidents, but the Coast Guard was still investigating that possibility in late March. The Coast Guard didnâ€™t order any modifications to the construction project.
â€œThe effect of the new marina construction on the flow of surface water is being considered, but I wouldnâ€™t make much of it,â€ Kinsey said.
Snohomish, a passenger-only fast ferry, began working the Seattle/Bremerton route after Yakima was taken out of service. Both casualties resulted in voyage cancellations for commuters.
Steve Rodgers, Washington State Ferriesâ€™ operations director, and staff in the agencyâ€™s communications office didnâ€™t return phone calls seeking further comment.
The Coast Guard said the vesselsâ€™ officers passed their drug and alcohol tests.
Slaton said the marina construction was scheduled to be finished in the spring of 2008.