Mishap aboard MV Coho last week caused rare cancellation of ferry run from Victoria
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The MV Coho, shown sailing into Port Angeles Harbor against a backdrop of Mount Baker on Feb. 8, shows the starboard door that was damaged Feb. 21. -- Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A semi-truck hit a door beam on the MV Coho while the 1,000-passenger ferry was loading last week in Victoria, causing the first missed sailing on the Black Ball Ferry Line vessel since 1981.

It stranded about 60 walk-on passengers overnight in British Columbia’s provincial capital, company President Ryan Burles said this week.

There were no injuries in the Feb. 21 incident, and damage was minor to the ferry and the truck, which was pulling a trailer that was at least 40 feet long.

The trailer was dented in the front left corner as it was being driven onto the ferry, Burles said.

The U.S. Coast Guard investigated the incident and approved repairs made to the vessel that allowed it to carry passengers again Feb. 22, Marine Inspector Larry Thompson said.

“We made the determination there was no real negligence involved,” Thompson said Tuesday.

“It’s just one of those things that happen occasionally.”

The mishap was caused by employee error after a beam above a starboard-side door that lets vehicles board was not slid out of the way for vehicles that were loading for the 4 p.m. sailing, Burles said.

The door had been moved forward so it could be painted.

When the door was slid back, the beam, which secures the door, was not moved with it, Burles said.

“When the truck hit the beam, they couldn’t close the door, and if you can’t close the door, you can’t sail,” Burles said.

No employees were disciplined, Burles said.

“They made a mistake,” he said. “We all make mistakes.”

Passengers and vehicles were unloaded in Victoria while the vessel was repaired overnight “at not a major cost” by Victoria Shipyards, Burles said.

Walk-on passengers will have their tickets to and from Victoria refunded, Burles said.

That will cost Black Ball about $1,860, he said. One-way tickets are $15.50.

The approximately 60 walk-on passengers found accommodations at their own expense, he added.

It is not standard policy in the ferry industry to offer free rooms to passengers stranded by mechanical issues or weather, Burles said.

Black Ball chartered a plane to fly five passengers back to Port Angeles for medical reasons, none of whom required emergency attention, he said.

The vessel departed Victoria empty of passengers at 6 a.m. Feb. 22 and resumed its schedule by picking up passengers in Port Angeles for the 8:20 a.m. sailing to Victoria to return to Port Angeles at 4 p.m. Feb. 22 without incident, Burles said.

Built in 1959, the Coho, which has one Port Angeles-Victoria and one Victoria-Port Angeles sailing a day during the winter, has never missed a sailing due to inclement weather but has missed them because of mechanical problems.

The last time was in 1981, when a propeller shaft hit a deadhead, causing a day-and-a-half of missed sailings, Burles said.

“It just gives you a reality check that things do happen and you’ve got to be diligent and all that,” he said.

“It’s fortunate no one was hurt,” Burles said.

“That’s the most important thing.

“Accidents happen. You live and learn.”

Burles and four other company executives bought Black Ball, a U.S.-based corporation, from the Oregon State University Foundation on Jan. 5.

The west side of Black Ball’s Port Angeles dock will be replaced beginning in the next 18 months in a $4 million project.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-417-3536 or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 28. 2012 6:22PM
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