e Cathlamet precasualty. (Source: Washington State Ferries)

Th​e Cathlamet precasualty. (Source: Washington State Ferries)

Contact of Vehicle/Passenger Ferry Cathlamet with Mooring Dolphin

What Happened

​​On July 28, 2022, about 0814 local time, the passenger and car ferry Cathlamet had crossed Puget Sound and was approaching the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal in Fauntleroy, Washington, with 94 persons on board when the vessel struck a ferry terminal dolphin. One minor injury was reported. The damage to the vessel was estimated at $10 million, and the dolphin damage estimate was $300,000. 

What We Found

​We determined that the probable ca​use of the contact of the passenger vessel Cathlamet with the dolphin at the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal was the master’s incapacitation, likely due to a microsleep, while the vessel was docking, and the quartermaster not actively monitoring the approach to the ferry terminal and intervening before the contact. ​

Lessons Learned

​​Watchstanding, Fatigue, and Complacency

Fatigue is often a factor in casualties investigated by the NTSB. Fatigue affects all aspects of human performance, including decision-making, alertness, and reaction time. Mariners should understand the performance effects of sleep loss and recognize the dangers of fatigue, such as microsleeps. When affected by fatigue, mariners should arrange for a qualified watchstander to serve in their place and avoid being on duty when unable to safely carry out their responsibilities.

In addition, repetitive operations, such as ferry transits—back and forth on the same route—require operators to sustain a high level of vigilance to prevent complacency. Complacency occurs when operators repeatedly complete a task without consequence, desensitizing them to its inherent risk. As with any repetitive task, individuals become increasingly familiar and comfortable over time. To combat complacency, operators should comply with procedures, such as operating checklists, that are in place to prevent single points of failure, and companies should train operators on the importance of following procedures.