Hyak exceeds lifesaving capacity; strands passengers

hyakSeveral walk-ons were kept from boarding Saturday’s 10:30 ferry from Seattle to Bremerton Saturday night, and they weren’t happy about it. There’s not another boat until two hours, 20 minutes later.

This is an oddity, but it happens. Let me again explain why.

The ferry in question, the Hyak, was built to carry up to 2,000 passengers. The Coast Guard limits it, however, to lifesaving capacity — the number that can be strapped into life vests and fit on lifeboats. That is 600.

Since help is nearby from the route’s other boat, the Coast Guard allows ferries to exceed their individual life-saving capacity. At 10:30 p.m. Saturday, however, the other Bremerton boat, Cathlamet, had already been put away for the night, dropping the Hyak’s limit to 600.

About 50 people were left at the dock, Danielle Maloni of Bremerton wrote on Facebook. She couldn’t be reached for more information.

The long gap between the 10:30 and 12:50 sailings has long been a gripe of Bremerton riders. They often leave ballgames and shows before they’re over because there’s no way they want to wait until practically 1 in the morning for an hour-long boat ride.

Normally there’s plenty of room on the 10:30 ferry. Washington State Ferries spokesman Ian Sterling couldn’t put his finger on what caused the crowd. Maybe the Vancouver Whitecaps at Seattle Sounders soccer game  Or late St. Patrick’s revelers.

“We did strand some people, unfortunately, which is annoying,” he said. “We’re not certain why there was so much demand for this ferry. This is extremely rare.”
A similar incident occurred on New Year’s, but WSF was able to add another sailing. It didn’t have the staff available this time.

Counting passengers has been a hot-button issue for years. The Coast Guard would like an accurate count on every sailing of every boat, so the crew knows how many people would need to rescued if there’s an emergency. Ferry workers count the ferries they expect to be pushing capacity, and more, depending on the route. It’s unclear whether it’s legally required, and it’s difficult when using a clicker to be accurate.

The ferries system is moving forward with the Coast Guard on the issue, it says. It’s also looking into automated passenger counting.

One thought on “Hyak exceeds lifesaving capacity; strands passengers

  1. In reference to Ed Freidrich article in March 22nd Sun on Life Saving Capacity-Stranded Passengers:
    What prevents the State from outfitting the Hyak (designed capacity 2000 passengers) with additional life vests and inflatable lifeboats to lets say 1000 passengers. The ship would meet Coast Guard regulations, be able to run on a schedule as determined by the ferry system without a second boat on the run, and have sufficient capacity for most scenarios. This should preclude what happened on Saturday, e.g. leaving passengers on the dock.
    Asking the state to support another run to Bremerton is unreasonable considering the service at that hour of the night is underutilized. Additional safety equipment is more cost effective and would be available for passenger safety at all times/situations regardless of a second ferry or not.

Comments are closed.