May 10, 2012 | Vol. 39, No. 19

Matanuska hits Ocean Beauty dock

PETERSBURG — The Alaska Marine Highway ferry Matanuska crashed into the face of the Ocean Beauty Seafoods dock in Petersburg at 1:00 p.m. Monday.

Milinda May
The moment of impact was captured in this photo by passenger Milinda May as the AMHS ferry Matanuska’s bow crashed into the second story structures and dock of the Ocean Beauty Seafood plant on Monday.

The M/V Matanuska was negotiating a turn in Wrangell Narrows prior to the accident as it prepared to dock at the Petersburg ferry terminal on its southbound trip.

Heavy damage was sustained to the face of the Ocean Beauty dock. Dock piling were broken and the hydraulic crane was dangling over the water. In addition to the dock damage, the second floor office walls and walkways were crushed by the hit.

Petersburg Harbormaster Glorianne Wollen told The Pilot, “It wasn’t a glancing blow. It pretty much was a head-on hit.” Wollen was on the scene investigating the damage along with Ocean Beauty caretakers. The plant has not yet opened for the salmon season yet.

The 408-foot Matanuska ferry hit the dock belonging to Ocean Beauty, said Jeremy Woodrow, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Transportation.

“From what we know, there's some extensive damage to that dock,” he said.

“It's one of those things. I don't know how or why the Matanuska T-boned the dock,” plant manager Cheryl Romeo said from Ocean Beauty's headquarters in Seattle.

The Matanuska missed Ocean Beauty's ammonia plant, but she said they are trying to get a skiff in the water to deal with a hydraulic leak on a crane, which was left hanging over the cement dock after the collision.

Romeo said the plant is idled with few employees before the processing season. The plant employed 240 people last year.

No injuries were reported as a result of the accident, either on shore or aboard the vessel.

The Coast Guard Sector Juneau was notified immediately after the incident, and will be heading the investigation.

According to the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS), the M/V Matanuska continues to sail. The M/V Matanuska departed Petersburg about two hours behind schedule, but was able to make up some time between ports. The vessel arrived in Prince Rupert, B.C. about 30 minutes behind schedule on Tuesday, said DOT Spokesman Jeremy Woodrow.

The U.S. Coast Guard responded shortly after the incident and determined the vessel had no significant damage. The ferry was cleared to continue passenger service. The M/V Matanuska had been traveling with 60 passengers at the time of the crash.

“There were no injuries, which is always awesome,” said USCG Lt. Ryan Erickson. “Not often that something like this happens; it's very rare that a ferry hits the docks.”

A strong current may have been a contributing factor in the accident. The vessel performs a 360-degree maneuver to get into position to dock at the AMHS terminal. Monday the vessel was faced with a strong current, the AMHS said in a press release.

Earlier on Monday Petersburg saw a low tide of -4.2 feet.

“We are particularly thankful that there were no injuries resulting from the accident,” said Michael Neussl, Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities Deputy Commissioner for Marine Operations.

“This is an unfortunate accident for everyone involved,” said Neussl. “We apologize to Ocean Beauty Seafoods for any disruption this may cause to their operations.”

The cost of the damage to Ocean Beauty is also yet to be determined.

“It's my understanding there were dents to the Matanuska above the waterline,” Woodrow added.

“We don't quite know what happened yet. We launched an investigation as soon as we found out, but it's too early to tell at this point,” Woodrow said.

“We need to interview all the parties involved, review the ship as well, make sure that there's a thorough investigation before there's any fingers pointed, and whether the cause of the problem is human or mechanical,” he said.

The accident occurred about 1:00 p.m. as the ferry was making its scheduled run from Juneau to Petersburg, 125 miles to the southeast.

According to the Alaska Marine Highway System's web page, the Matanuska has been in service since 1963. Five years later, it was renovated and lengthened.

It can carry 500 passengers, has 108 berths and can hold 88 vehicles.

The Matanuska was delayed in Wrangell on Wednesday due to a mechanical issue with the boat’s transfer bridge, according to a notice from the Alaska Marine Highway System.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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