Investigators Determine Captain Error Caused Alaska Ferry Accident
The M/V MATANUSKA crashed into the Ocean Beauty Seafoods dock in Petersburg, Alaska. According to a recently-concluded investigation by the Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT), a maneuvering error made in strong currents is to blame for the May 7 collision. Captain M. Scott Macaulay, who has been working with the Alaska Marine Highway System for 29 years, 14 years as a captain, now faces administrative action in connection with this ferry accident.
Macaulay was attempting to maneuver out of a strong current and into a counter current that would slow the 408-foot ferry’s approach into the terminal, which is reportedly a common procedure for docking in Petersburg. However, the conflicting currents, coupled with Macaulay’s engine and rudder commands, prevented the vessel from completing its turn into the terminal. According to the Alaska Dispatch, DOT investigators found that Macaulay “did not recognize this maneuvering error with enough time available to avoid the collision,” although “the ferry crew was able to significantly reduce the speed of the vessel and minimize the force” of the impact.
The M/V MATANUSKA sustained only minor damage, and, fortunately, no one aboard the ferry or on land was injured. The Ocean Beauty Seafoods building and dock did not fare so well, however, with initial company estimates putting the damage in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
When a ferry runs into trouble, the actions of its captain and crew can make the difference between life and death. According to Michael Neussl, the DOT’s deputy commissioner for marine operations, “the [M/V MATANUSKA] crew maintained situational awareness throughout the entire event and took immediate actions that actually reduced the impact made by the ferry.”
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