“Maneuvering Error” Caused Alaskan Ferry Slam

“Oh my gosh!”

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) and the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) found that the May 7, 2012 allision of the M/V Matanuska with the Ocean Beauty Seafoods dock in Petersburg, Alaska was the result of a “maneauvering error” on behalf of the captain.

The agencies together today released the finding of their internal investigation into the unfortunate accident that produced one of the better (considering no one was injured) incident videos of this year.

So how did this happen? In a summary of their findings, DOT&PF and AMHS stated:

As the M/V Matanuska transited southbound into Wrangell Narrows with a strong following current, the captain intended to maneuver out of the strong current and into the back eddies of Petersburg Harbor, where a counter current exists. The intention of the maneuver was to slow the ferry’s approach to the Petersburg AMHS terminal.  The combination of these two strong currents, combined with the captain’s engine and rudder commands, prevented the ferry from completing its turn and proceeding along the Petersburg waterfront to the AMHS terminal.

The ship’s captain did not recognize this maneuvering error with enough time available to avoid the collision. However, the ferry crew was able to significantly reduce the speed of the vessel and minimize the force with which the ferry struck the dock.

Not stated in the report was that the ferry was forced into a maneuver to avoid a collision with a smaller vessel, as originally suspected following the incident.

“The crew maintained situational awareness throughout the entire event and took immediate actions that actually reduced the impact made by the ferry,” said Michael Neussl, DOT&PF Deputy Commissioner for Marine Operations.  “As a result, no one was injured either on the ferry or on the dock, and the vessel was safely moored at the AMHS terminal a short time after the collision.”

The report added that it was determined the vessel was operating within it’s capabilities provided conditions and there was no mechanical failure or malfunction. It also stated that all crew underwent required drug testing following the incident and all results came back negative so everyone can drink to that!

“This is an extremely rare occurrence,” said Neussl. “Over the last 28 years AMHS has made approximately 200,000 port calls of which there have only been 14 incidents of this kind.  This mishap involved a seasoned captain with 29 years of AMHS experience, 14 years as a captain, and no record of previous accidents.”

“Alaska is an extremely challenging and demanding environment that is often very unforgiving to errors,” said Neussl.  “We’re confident that the lessons learned and the measures that will be taken from this mishap will help prevent a similar situation in the future.”