Oops again: Ferry forced to turn back due to ‘overloading’ actually wasn’t overloaded, state says

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State ferry Cathlamet

OLYMPIA — A state investigative report released Monday said that a Bremerton-Seattle  ferry that had to turn back to dock on Aug. 15 because it was believed to be overloaded with passengers actually wasn’t too full after all.

On that date, more than 480 passengers — many of them Seahawks fans heading toward the game — were forced to get off the ferry Cathlamet before it resumed its departure for Seattle.

“The evidence collected indicates the Cathlamet was not overloaded and there were approximately 1,073 passengers on board when the ferry sailed from Bremerton at 4:23 p.m. for Seattle,” the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Todd Dowler wrote in the inquiry.

READ the inquiry report by clicking here.

“The Passenger Attendant counting walk-on passengers believed 1,461 passengers walked onto the Cathlamet. This count combined with the count of 223 passengers boarding the ferry via vehicles brought the  total passenger count to 1,684.

That number, however, was contradicted by video evidence and the other counting, the report said. And the number was in error, apparently, because of faulty counting clickers.

“I again apologize to WSF customers impacted by this incident last month,” Washington State Ferries said in a statement released late Monday. “While the miscount was the result of a faulty counting device, we are taking steps to make sure the passenger counts are accurate. The actions of the crew, when they thought the vessel was overloaded, demonstrated their commitment to safety, our top priority.”

Below is a video report from the Aug. 15 incident:

Data pix.






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  • Darlene Talbot

    @Kim…. What regular 1600 capacity ferry would that be? That crossing uses the Cathlamet and the Sealth which are both 1200 capacity. What ferry even has a capacity of 1600? Some have 2000, others 2500 and some have less than 1200 but don’t know any that are 1600.

  • Brandon Pedersen

    My fiance and I were on that ferry that had to send passengers away, and how does someone who makes decent money working for the WSF service not do there job? I am just upset because.I missed the 1st whole quarter of the game. And I had to add more money to my parking meter.

  • HRC

    It is time to take the Ferry System out of the State of Washington’s hands. It has repeatedly proven it is incapable of running it, at least correctly. If a private company wont run it, then the Ferry System should just disappear. Let the free market decide if it is worth having the Ferries. If you want to use the Ferry , then the USER, the rider should pay for it all, not someone who never or rarely uses it. Time to get the government out of our lives. IN all ways too.

    • C

      Um, then how will people get to vashon and the san juans? And the people who use it pay the fare. Besides, we tried that with the floating bridge and everyone HATES the tolls we didn’t vote for, and we already paid for the bridge with taxes. And, because they let the contractors do their own inspections, the bridge is a disaster waiting to happen. Sounds great in theory but it isn’t. While I agree that WSF has had numerous issues, it is also the largest system in the world. Even a large corporation would have inconsistencies at that scale. What really needs to happen is accountability, and adhesion to set standards.

  • David

    This is so lame, I thought AB stood for “Able Body”, in Coast Guard licensed language. I wonder if the deckhands even know how to tie a knot!!

  • Samantha Clarke

    They really should get the Tacoma fixed clearly. I was there the first day the Tacoma shut down and I was in line after I dropped my boyfriend off at the Light Rail and it was HELL. It was like Seahawks Victory Day Parade all over again, I have no idea how I managed to get on the Sealth Ferry ><

  • Owen

    Hey, folks, sometimes sh** happens – especially when people are involved. You ever make a mistake? Probably. Did anyone’s world come to an end? Probably not. Our ferry system works amazingly well for something run by bureaucracy and has been working well all of my 64 years. Now, what caused the problem? All those 12’s trying to get to the game, which the Seahawks won – as usual. Lighten up!

  • Brent Stewart

    @ Darlene Talbot
    Super Class (Kaleetan/Hyak) = 2,000
    Jumbo MK1 (Walla Walla) = 2,000
    This is bizarre, the Terminal peeps do a count and the crew couldn’t have failed to notice the overload. This is idiotic. There’s hardly a place to sit when they’re to capacity (the Issaquah Class that is).

  • Brent Stewart

    Before everyone goes off half cocked, keep in mind how many passengers and tonnage WSF successfully transports each year. Metro Buses have more failures.

  • Caityn

    Don’t knock the person who made the call. A mistake? Sure. But I think there were good intentions and the thought process was ‘better safe than sorry’. So you missed the first part of the game. Better than potentially resting at the bottom of the Puget Sound.

  • cliff martin

    really, do you think they know how many people go through the gate at the clink, or at the Washington State Fair, I bet within less than a percentage point error, why not use bar code scanners, please don’t tell me they are protecting a deckhand making 80K a year to hold a clicker……

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