Friday, June 3, 2016

2016-13 Cruise Ship Damages City Float Dock in Ketchikan

Friday, June 3, 2016

Yesterday evening we enjoyed the lightly filled Alaska Air flight from Seattle to Ketchikan.  Roger, Sid and I returned back to town to get the boat moving towards Sitka.  We hope to be there around the 10th.

Except for the big winds, we would be off to Prince of Wales Island today.  We've seen some nasty wind gusts today while we wait it out until tomorrow's more moderate conditions.  This morning we set up for fishing by installing the down-riggers, rigging the rods, unscrambling the flashers, leaders, hooks, weights and associated gear.  It is relaxing, until a big southerly gust pushes Wild Blue over so much that you feel like you're out of the confines of City Float, away from downtown Ketchikan.

The wind not only affects the small boats, but the cruise ships on a much larger scale.  There were four ships in early today, including the Norwegian Pearl at the City Float cruise ship dock.  This dock has six major sized pilings with maximum size fenders.  The dock sits just in front of City Float small boat harbor and since the Wild Blue is moored just 100 feet away, we get close up cruise ship activity.

About 1:30 the Pearl was leaving southbound in the big winds while the Celebrity Infinity waited patiently about a half mile north and astern of the Pearl.  So with all the noise generated by the ships engines, thrusters, etc, we moved up to the pilot house to watch a professional un-docking and docking exercise.

The Pearl made a clean exit into the heavy winds.  Then Infinity started approaching from the north.  As she nosed her bow towards the City Float cruise ship dock, a big gust pushed her bow even further towards shore.  Moored just to the north of City Float is the Zaandam.  Having watched many a ship dock here in Ketchikan, it appeared to Alex, that Infinity was too close to shore, and too close to Zaandam!  Alex stated this fact out-loud, but failed to start rolling the cell phone video.  Darn!

Both the Infinity's stern and bow thrusters running hot apparently couldn't keep the ship from gaining towards shore and the moored Zaandam.  A bow only starboard thrust would allow a soft landing square to the dock, but would push the stern to port and shore-ward, and since the Infinity's stern was overlapped with the forward part of Zaandam, a collision would occur.  The pilot's only choice was to continue thrusting to starboard and moving forward.

When the forward sections of the Infinity hull ground into the City Float piling, a loud metal-on-metal noise could be heard.  Once clear of Zaandam's bow, the stern thruster helped square up the boat.  But the cruise ship dock, catwalk, piling, auxiliary inside float and Infinity's port side suffered.

Big southerly winds blasting up Tongass Narrows
just outside the partially protected City Float small craft harbor.
Collision with cruise ship dock piling pierced and scraped the Infinity's
forward hull.  By 5:00 pm we could see welding occurring from inside
Infinity's hull, confirming that the ship was holed!
Aleutian Ballad is tied to 200 foot float on the inside of the City
Float cruise ship dock.  The U-clamps holding the float to the pilings
were separated by the collision.  The float became unattached with the Ballad and
Safari Endeavor tied up and now free floating.
Tugs moving Safari Quest off free-floating float.
Zaandam is moored in the background.
Damaged piling at far left. Partially sunk catwalk and twisted steel.
Note large crowd of passengers watching.  I bet someone has a great video.
Piling separated from bollard platform.

An undamaged piling and bollard platform.

Here's some video from the folks with a front seat:

At 4pm the Seven Seas, berthed off the bow of Infinity, called for two tugs to assist in exiting Ketchikan northbound.

At 5:30 the Infinity was assisted by tug south to the undamaged the berth exited by Seven Seas!
We now have a beautiful view of Tongass Narrows, only slightly enhanced with twisted metal.


  1. From the video its very clear that the approach is too shallow and too close. As soon as the head way is reduced, the stern lost its leverage and appears to race in. Poorly executed manoeuvre, any experienced large ship handler can see that. Unfortunately many of these Masters are used to driving a highly manoeuvrable powerful ship and operating on the weather limits seems to catch them unaware. Perhaps a few years on something less manoeuvrable as Master would help the ship handling skills. I saw this as an experienced Master Mariner with large cruise ship experience.

  2. The Master has been a Captain for around a decade. Somehow I think that might exclude inexperience being the issue.