The M/V Coho lost control and backed into a float plane dock last night in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, although that didn’t stop it from staying on schedule for its trip to Port Angeles.
The 104-metre U.S.-flagged car ferry was reversing toward the dock next to the Regent Hotel in preparation for its 7:30 p.m. sail, when its forward thrusters failed to respond.
Ryan Burles, president of Black Ball Ferry Lines, owner of the Coho, said a crew member on the stern alerted the bridge the ship was approaching close to the dock. No people were on the dock and no float planes were parked there at the time, he said.
The 5,100 ton ship was reversing at about three knots, Burles said, within the five knot limit in the Inner Harbour.
“The captain was backing up to get into position to go forward, but at that point the forward throttle didn’t happen,” Burles said “He dropped anchor and came into the dock.”
The long finger that runs parallel to shore was cracked into a V-shape, but is anchored to the seabed. The dock is used by Hyack Air for charter flights and is owned by the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, which purchased Hyack and the terminal in June.
“What happened is a very unfortunate thing. We take full responsibility. Fortunately nobody was hurt. That’s the main thing,” Burles said.
He doesn’t suspect the windy evening or crew training are factors in the incident. A GVHA harbour patrol boat was in the area during the crash.
Burles said the Coho’s captain regained control of the ship, pulled the anchor and sailed it out past Laurel Point and determined the hull and rudders weren’t damaged, and the ship overall was good to sail.
The captain notified the Victoria harbour master, the U.S. Coast Guard and Transport Canada of the crash, and continued onto Port Angeles, within five minutes of its schedule.
“Right away the captain determined the was no damage to the hull, steering was good. He went through his due diligence. The boat was operational,” Burles said. “What occurred is that it wouldn’t go forward. We are working with the U.S. Coast Guard and Transport Canada to drill down to why that happened.
“It’s a serious incident that we will look at deeply to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Black Ball Ferry Lines have never had a similar incident in its history, Burles said. The Coho has been sailing between Victoria and Washington State since December 1959. The U.S. Coast Guard issued the Coho its annual certificate inspection in February.
Transport Canada and the U.S. Coast Guard will be investigating the incident, and the Coho is operating on its normal sailing schedule.
Victoria harbour master David Featherby said he was working in the harbour at the time of the crash, but deferred comment to Transport Canada. Transport Canada said the crash wasn’t a “significant” incident and its investigation shouldn’t take long to complete.
“We are investigating the incident to ensure that the vessel was complying with ship safety regulations under the Canada Shipping Act,” said Jillian Glover, Transport Canada spokesperson. “I believe (investigators) will probably be asking questions of the captain to ensure that all protocol were being followed.”
Extra harbour moorage out of commission
The GVHA purchased the Hyack dock and floatplane terminal only three weeks ago to accommodate an overflow of floatplane and boating activity during the busy summer season. With the dock snapped in two, Curtis Grad, GVHA president, said the harbour authority is back where it started in terms of moorage capacity.
“It obviously takes that hundred and some odd feet of float space out of play for awhile. We’ll have to find alternative options for accommodating additional boats, particular during the Symphony Splash and other events if we’re not able to have it up and operating by then,” Grad said on Thursday.
He said its too early to tell when dock can be replaced and repaired. GVHA will wait on insurance company reports before moving forward.
“We’re back to now is the capacity we had three weeks ago. It will have an impact on our ability to accommodate the additional overflow and the revenue that would have come from that.”
–with reporting from Edward Hill, Kyle Slavin and Daniel Palmer