WSF cites fuel contamination for grounding on Seattle run

The following is a statement from Eben Phillips, director of vessel engineering and maintenance for Washington State Ferries (WSF), regarding the recent grounding of the ferry Walla Walla:

“On April 15, Walla Walla had both its ship’s service generator and vital generator shut down in Rich Passage, ultimately resulting in a full loss of propulsion and steerage, and subsequently (the ferry) grounded while in service from Bremerton to Seattle.

“That same evening, preservation and maintenance staff immediately engaged with Walla Walla engineers and Coast Guard inspectors to coordinate the detailed inspection underwater appendages, power distribution, steering, fuel delivery and data collection files. Concurrently, WSF staff worked alongside investigative efforts to ensure Walla Walla’s anchor was recovered and restowed, life-saving equipment restored, propeller surfaces polished, electrical power framework tested, underwater hull cathodic protection restored, all while further testing the vessel systems with dock and sea trials.

“Our incident investigation is ongoing and will conclude by mid-July. Although the root cause and investigation are ongoing, WSF and Coast Guard investigators are certain that Walla Walla’s electrical power outage stemmed from a fuel-related issue (contamination) specific to a single fuel service tank. All additional fuel tanks on Walla Walla were inspected without discrepancy, and the suspect fuel service tank was further inspected, cleaned and retested.

“At this time, the WSF and Coast Guard inspectors are confident in Walla Walla’s electrical power reliability and have cleared Walla Walla to return to service.

 I can assure you that there are several ongoing efforts to support the safety of our customers, and to ensure this type of incident does not reoccur in our fleet.

“I am happy to emphasize how effective the Walla Walla crew’s actions were in responding to this emergency, which ensured passenger safety and minimized vessel damage.”

U.S. Coast Guard photo
By Rich Miller