Two-nation probe opens into unprecedented MV Coho crash into Victoria dock
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CVT Two/Vancouver Island via KOMO News
The MV Coho pulls away from a damaged floatplane dock in front of the Regent Hotel in Victoria on Wednesday night.

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

VICTORIA — U.S. and Canadian authorities have begun an investigation into what caused the MV Coho ferry to back into a dock used to service seaplanes on its way out of Victoria's Inner Harbour on Wednesday.

The collision broke the floating structure into at least three pieces. It was the first such incident for the 53-year-old ferry, company officials said.

No planes were tied to the dock, and no injuries were reported in the 7:30 p.m. crash, said Ryan Malane, director of marketing for Black Ball Ferry Line, which operates the Coho.

Capt. Elmer Grasser, an 11-year veteran of the Coho, immediately contacted Canada's Harbour Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard, as ferry line procedure dictates, Malane said.

The Coho wasn't damaged, he said Thursday, and no damage estimate to the dock was available.

“[Black Ball Ferry Line] will take responsibility for the damage to the dock,” Malane said.

Malane could not say when the investigation by U.S. and Canadian officials would be completed.

“At this point, we're still investigating to determine exactly what happened,” Malane said.

The Coho likely was going no faster than 2 knots (2.3 mph) when it backed out of its landing area and into the dock, Malane said, adding that it averages 15 knots (17.26 mph) when crossing the Strait of Juna de Fuca between Victoria and Port Angeles.

Malane said he was on the ferry at the time and did not feel the 341-foot Coho hit the dock.

After the ship's crew inspected the ship, Malane said the captain followed procedure and continued out of the harbor, and Harbour Patrol did not ask it to return.

“[Harbour Patrol] was twice in contact with the captain, and they did not call for the ship's return,” Malane said.

The dock is between 100 and 120 feet in length, said Curtis Grad, president and CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, and was parallel to the mainland when the ferry backed into it.

The three pieces of the dock were secured soon after the impact, he added.

The dock will have to be rebuilt before it can be used again, Grad said; he could not estimate how long that might take.

“Once we're done dealing with the insurance claim, we can work on both the timing and the plan for the rebuild,” Grad said.

“We're still in that assessment phase.”

Grad said the dock, which the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority bought three years ago, was used to service seaplanes and provide additional moorage for boats in the harbor.

No harbor-centered events were planned for the dock, Grad said, though the lack of a dock during the summer will mean less moorage space for boats.

“We'll definitely have to work around finding capacity for boats, especially during event periods,” Grad said.

Malane said Ryan Burles, Black Ball Ferry Line vice president, could not remember a similar incident happening in Burles' 30 years with Black Ball Ferry Line.

“It's certainly an unusual occurrence,” Malane said.

“That's probably an understatement.”

Grad agreed that such an incident is rare.

“The [ferry line] is a great operator, a great host and [has] a great track record,” Grad said.

Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at

Last modified: July 11. 2013 6:50PM
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