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State ferry strikes Ocean Beauty's Petersburg dock

Posted: May 8, 2012 - 12:06am
The Ocean Beauty Seafoods dock in Petersburg, Alaska show heavy damage on Monday, May 7, 2012 after the Alaska Marine Highway vessel Matanuska hit the dock while negotiating a turn in Wrangell Narrows prior to docking at the ferry terminal. (AP Photo/Petersburg Pilot, Suzanne Ashe)  Suzanne Ashe
Suzanne Ashe
The Ocean Beauty Seafoods dock in Petersburg, Alaska show heavy damage on Monday, May 7, 2012 after the Alaska Marine Highway vessel Matanuska hit the dock while negotiating a turn in Wrangell Narrows prior to docking at the ferry terminal. (AP Photo/Petersburg Pilot, Suzanne Ashe)

ANCHORAGE — One of Alaska’s largest state ferries hit a seafood processing plant’s dock head-on Monday, causing significant damage, officials said.

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

The Petersburg Pilot reported the face of the Ocean Beauty concrete dock was heavily damaged, dock pilings were broken and a crane was damaged. Even the second floor of the idled processing plant was damaged, with walls and outer walkways partially demolished. The Matanuska shows possible dents and scrapes to the bow of the ship.

“It wasn’t a glancing blow. It pretty much was a head-on hit,” Glorianne Wollen, the harbormaster in Petersburg, told The Pilot.

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

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

There were no immediate reports of injuries, both Woodrow and Romeo said. There were 60 passengers on board at the time of the accident.

Romeo planned to be in Petersburg on Tuesday. Mike Forbush, the southeast regional manager for Ocean Beauty, also will soon be on-site with insurance adjustors.

“We’re assessing the damage, and we’re contacting contractors right now,” he said. “It’s not going to hinder us from operating this summer.”

There was no damage estimate, but Forbush said “it’s definitely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars” to fix.

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

The accident happened as the Matanuska was maneuvering a 180-degree turn in a narrow passage as the crew was trying to dock in Petersburg, Woodrow said. There were unanticipated currents of 3-4 knots.

The Coast Guard inspected the Matanuska, and cleared it to continue its sailing to Wrangell, Ketchikan and Prince Rupert, British Columbia. It was running about two hours behind schedule, but Woodrow said they would try to make up time on the water.

The captain of the vessel, who hasn’t been named, continued the voyage, Woodrow said.

An internal investigation of the accident was immediately opened. The marine highway system “is withholding releasing any names while the incident is under investigation,” he 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 1:30 p.m., 90 minutes before high tide, 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.

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