Vashon Island ferry damaged in dock allision

A Washington State Ferries (WSF) vessel sustained significant damage in a dock allision last Thursday morning July 28th, rupturing plating on the bow above the waterline and causing ongoing problems for the State’s ferry services.

Ferry Cathlamet (IMO 7808138) had a hard landing at the Fauntleroy terminal in West Seattle, causing damage to the vessel and to one of the terminal’s pilings. The ferry struck the piling (dolphin) while approaching the terminal.

Considerable damage was caused to one dock-facing corner of the double-ended ferry. The upper promenade deck was crumpled and twisted at an angle, and some of the framing buckled in far enough to contact two vehicles on the upper car deck.

No injuries, pollution or flooding was reported. However, the terminal was closed temporarily and services were suspended until further notice. Traffic to Vashon Island was diverted south to the Point Defiance route.

The ferry berthed safely after the incident and discharged all passengers and all but two cars, which were trapped by the crumpling.

As the weekend arrived the WSF marine transportation system was facing significant challenges. The Cathlamet was docked and out of operation at the state’s shipyard in Eagle Harbour at Bainbridge Island. It had sailed there under its own power, but officials said the ferry would not be able to return to service until its metal structure, mangled by the collision with the dolphin just offshore, was fixed. “The Cathlamet is likely out for months and the fix will be well into the millions of dollars,” said Ian Sterling, spokesperson for the state ferry system, adding that the agency has filed an insurance claim to cover the repairs.

Sterling said that “the good news is we had a boat available to put in place of the Cathlamet, the Issaquah class ferry the Kitsap.” But the new ferry had to be taken out of service during Friday morning because of a steering malfunction.

Crews worked for five hours to repair the Kitsap and return it to service.

Trips without the ferry service can translate into a drive of more than 80 miles each way.

Sterling said the state’s ferry fleet was already down from 24 ferries a few years back to 21 today after the agency was forced to retire three older boats. Washington State has allocated more than $1bn to build new boats, but officials had not yet been able to find a ship builder.

Sterling noted that WSF was also suffering from a post-pandemic staffing shortage, although he expected new recruits to be trained and working throughout the system, to reach those full staff levels, in about six to 12 months.

An investigation is being conducted by the USCG and National Transportation Safety Board.

1981-built, USA-flagged, 2,477 gt Cathlamet is owned by Washington State Transport and managed by Washington State Ferries of Seattle, Washington.

Video of aftermath of crash at: