Errant boat forces five ships to divert in Admiralty Inlet traffic jam

MARROWSTONE POINT – It was a close call, said the Coast Guard.

In Admiralty Inlet fog, a small boat forced five commercial shipping vessels – a laden oil tanker, a container ship and three others – to steer out of the deep-water shipping lane in the middle of Puget Sound and skirt the west edge of Whidbey Island to avoid a collision.

Had the vessels been unsuccessful, there could have been an oil spill or dozens of shipping containers from Asia floating in Puget Sound, said Mark Ashley, operations director Coast Guard Puget Sound Vessel Traffic Service in Seattle.

The Coast Guard reported on Friday that the unidentified small vessel, which did not respond to radio calls, forced the evasive action near Marrowstone Point east of Port Townsend on Thursday morning.

The five vessels detected the small craft on their radar in their shipping lane in the 4:30 a.m. fog.

The Coast Guard Puget Sound Vessel Traffic Service in Seattle also detected the vessel, which was moving in “various courses and speeds,” Ashley said.

“It likely was an early-morning fisherman,” said Ashley.

“Likely, he wasn’t aware of his position, or likely wasn’t aware of the problems he was causing.”

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