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MS Herald of Free Enterprise

WSF Chetzemoka

A FINAL WORD: Sunday, November 21, 2010.

Between this Blog and comments in other maritime blogs we have pretty much discussed this vessel's issues fully. In fact we have beaten them to death!! The sad truth is that this is a politically operated ferry system to serve the public in the State of Washington. Being politicians they were able to convince another highly political federal agency, namely our USCG, to bend to their will. Nothing will be changed in this vessel and any further building will be done in the same way with the same results. The only possible change could be through the ballot box to replace those politicians and proceeding from there. So potential passengers may we suggest that prior to embarking you carefully check the current weather report. NAUTICAL LOG has been informed that the crossing is only 30 minutes and so doors are not an issue. We disagree and would refer you to the MS Herald of Free Enterprise ferry accident which occurred after leaving the Belgian port of Zeebrugge on March 06, 1987. Your research will show you the ferry was overwhelmed by flooding because the available car deck doors had not been closed correctly allowing water to enter. Wikipedia has that complete report of this incident in which 193 lives were lost. Please note the time frame that the entire incident took.

There has been criticism of some NAUTICAL LOG Posts and our comments to Posts in other Blogs. Please note that any 'speculation' is based entirely on both personal experience as a long time seafarer in many types of ships, sailing worldwide and actual incidents such as that mentioned above. Here at NAUTICAL LOG we fully intent to address maritime issues taking an activist role. This is particularly so when the issues put the safety of our fellow seafarers at risk. Not having to be concerned any more about renewing paperwork with government bodies such as the IMO, MCA or USCG due to our now full retirement we can call the issues as we see them (also known as kick-ass!!).

If any fellow seafarer as an issue they would like addressed by NAUTICAL LOG please feel free and confident in sending us a personal e-mail. Rest assured we would never betray your trust, as some of you already know, all information received is closely held.

Good Watch

Many years ago NAUTICAL LOG served in the Canadian Coastguard and was for a time stationed at Esquimalt, Vancouver Island. Between that service and many calls to SEATAC Ports we got to know the Washington State Ferry System (WSF). Strangely and regretfully now, we never made a trip in them, we always travelled in the BC Ferries. So it was that with all the whingeing, moaning, groaning and complaints in comments to Posts in various Blogs about both the system and the fleet we started to follow-up.

The latest addition to the fleet is the WSF Chetzemoka. The vessel looked a little odd and strange in photos that NAUTICAL LOG saw during building and trials. As it turned out from information and Posts in Blogs the vessel has a list which, so we understand is a 'permanent' list of maybe up to 5 degrees - open to correction on that. Still a list, alright so correct it by the ballast tanks or even some permanent ballast perhaps. Well now for some reason that NAUTICAL LOG does not quite understand this, apparently, cannot be done. Further study of the vessel showed that she has no closeable doors on her car deck openings. This is surely an IMO requirement for ocean-going ferries and at least a strong IMO recommendation for unsheltered open water ferries. The WSF Chetzemoka operates across Admiralty Inlet, San Juan Islands, State of Washington. It is a miserable body of open water at times and the vessels track is across unsheltered open water with prevailing weather, wind and sea right abeam. The vessel is required to be commanded by an Unlimited Master (Oceans/Inland ?) according to USCG Maritime Safety Office (MSO) SEATAC area. The United States system of qualifying maritime officers is very weird and confusing, even it seems to MSO, because the previous ferry on this route only required a 100 ton Master in command, again according to USCG MSO SEATAC. How all this is decided NAUTICAL LOG has not the slightest idea. Having spent half of a 50 year seagoing career in passenger vessels one would look for the highest trained, qualified and experienced officers available when transporting human lives - not the minimum - maybe WSF can explain this NAUTICAL LOG certainly cannot.

Now we come to the most amazing fact of all and the most puzzling, the USCG Stability Test. To qualify a vessel and most particularly a passenger vessel, its stability must be tested. Please tell me how a brand new vessel with a permanent uncorrectable list of whatever degrees can pass a plumb bob test when the vessel must start out lined up within 1/8th. inch of the zero of the graduated scale. One may research the Stability Test procedure. Start by reading up 46 CFR 171.030 for the US Law, then go to CG-4006 (REV. 7-94) the USCG form which shows everything, data to fill in, formulae, drawings and that plumb bob test procedure and standard required to pass. ASTM F 1321-92 (2008) will also be helpful in researching.

From the point of view of a now retired cruise line Safety Officer who has investigated numerous cases and conducted extensive training of passenger vessel crews, this is a maritime incident waiting to happen. One gets the rather sick feeling that politics has overruled basic common sense let alone the maritime safety requirements of the USCG itself. One hopes there never will be an incident but it does not look very good from the NAUTICAL LOG viewpoint.

Good Watch.


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