Captain Error Blamed in Alaska Ferry Allision

Posted in Alaska Maritime News on July 13, 2012

Ferry Boat Allision

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An investigation into the May 7 allision involving an Alaskan ferry with a pier in Petersburg, AK faults the captain for making a “maneuvering error” while fighting strong currents.

The report, released today on behalf of Alaskan State Officials, says that the captain of the M/V Matanuska, a 408-foot ship operating as part the Alaskan State Ferry System, slammed into a seafood company’s dock after the captain made a critical error in navigation.

According to the reports findings, as the M/V Matanuska transited southbound into Wrangell Narrows with a strong following current, the captain intended to maneuver out of the strong current and into the back eddies of Petersburg Harbor, where a counter current exists. The intention of the maneuver was to slow the ferry’s approach to the Petersburg AMHS terminal.  The combination of these two strong currents, combined with the captain’s engine and rudder commands, prevented the ferry from completing its turn and proceeding along the Petersburg waterfront to the AMHS terminal.

The ship’s captain did not recognize this maneuvering error with enough time available to avoid the collision. However, the ferry crew was able to significantly reduce the speed of the vessel and minimize the force with which the ferry struck the dock.

“This is an extremely rare occurrence,” said Michael Neussl, the DOT&PF Deputy Commissioner for Marine Operations.. “Over the last 28 years AMHS has made approximately 200,000 port calls of which there have only been 14 incidents of this kind.  This mishap involved a seasoned captain with 29 years of AMHS experience, 14 years as a captain, and no record of previous accidents.”

Luckily, no one was injured on the ship or on pier.

Work on Ferry’s? Read more about Ferry Injuries