Investigation Faults Human Error in Washington State Ferry Collision with Yacht

Mike Schuler
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November 14, 2013

The Washington State ferry Hyak passes Flat Point on Lopez Island. File photo via Wikimedia commons

A Washington State DOT investigation into a collision between the Washington State Ferry M/V Hyak and a motoring sailboat has found that that human error on behalf of ferry’s Captain and Second Mate was responsible for the collision.

As gCaptain reported, the Hyak’s starboard bow collided with the port quarter of the 25-foot yacht in what was reported to be heavy fog on September 13 at the confluence of Harney and Upright channels in the San Juan Islands. The sailboat, identified in the report as M/Y Tasya, was not under sail when the collision occurred and its sole occupant was rescued by a nearby vessel and taken to Orcas Island unharmed. The sailboat later sank while under tow by a Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife vessel.

On the day of the incident, WSF convened a board of inquiry to investigate the collision, collecting data and information about the accident.

According to the boards report, investigators have determined that the incident was avoidable as the Hyak had adequate time, equipment capability and “sea room” to avoid the collision. The report adds that weather, visibility, tides and currents were not factors in this incident, despite initial reports of “thick fog” in the area.

The report goes on to state that the root cause of this incident was human error due to lack of situational awareness on behalf of the Hyak’s Captain and in combination with the Second Mate’s inexperience at the helm.

“We conducted a thorough and detailed investigation into what happened and why,” said David Moseley, WSDOT assistant secretary, ferries division. “We’re now shifting our focus to making improvements to prevent future incidents.”

The report provides a total of six recommendations, which include Bridge Team Management training, the development of a refresher training program for officers in charge of a navigational watch, and the consideration of Voyage Data Recorders on all WSF vessel, among others.

You can download the full WSDOT report HERE.

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