If you enjoy the content you find here, please consider donating to support our continued efforts to bring you the best news and opinion articles we can. We hope you like the recent update to NWCitizen, and look forward to bringing you more insight into local politics and issues in 2017.

Support NWCitizen Not Now

Whatcom Chief Ferry: Urgent Questions

By On

The Whatcom Chief went back into service last night, connecting Lummi Island to the rest of Whatcom County. It just came out of a three week yearly maintenance and had a huge 4 foot by 9 foot section of its corroded hull replaced with new steel. The ferry was built 54 years ago in 1962 and is ancient by steel ship standards. It has never had a total rebuild like the state ferries have after 20 or 30 years of service.

These facts alone are sufficient for serious concerns about the safety of the hull and this ferry. The questions that arise are how can we know if the hull is safe and the Whatcom Chief is safe. This is older than any Washington State Ferry and, without the rebuild they get, we on NWCitizen are going to investigate further into this question. Several people with expertise on ships have approached me with concerns, questions - enough to merit a search for the truth. Is the Whatcom Chief a safe vessel? I now think not.

A second urgent question concerns the overloading of the Whatcom Chief with vehicles and creating a danger to passengers. The present capacity of the ferry, per the county, is 18 to 20 vehicles, with fewer when large trucks are taken. The problem with 18 or more cars is they are so tightly parked on the deck that some or even most people cannot get ouf of their cars. They are too close to the car next to them to open their door enough to exit. If there is an emergency, such as a fire or sinking of the ferry, these people would be trapped.

This unsafe overloading has been going on for years even though many have expressed concerns to the ferry crews and the county supervisors. Over the past few weeks, the Coast Guard has been given photo evidience of this and they have expressed concerns. In preparing for this article, I have talked with county and coast guard officials. We can expect that the capacity of the Whatcom Chief may be reduced by 25% or more over the next few weeks. It may go down to 15 vehicles and possibly lower. The ability of passengers to escape from their cars is the law. Whatcom County has been knowingly violating that law for years. The Coast Guard will no longer ignore it. The photo above is of the ferry dangerously overloaded.

Back in June, Tip Johnson posted “Lummi Island Drawbridge”, which fully described the situation with the Whatcom Chief. Nothing has changed. Over the next few weeks, we will be trying to get more information on the results of the recent drydocking and maintenance. I am very confident the information above is correct and the questions are warranted.

We do have an option.

If we as a county community want to provide safe and sufficient ferry service to Lummi Island, what is available to us? The solution has been staring county executive Jack Louws in the face for two years. The Washington State Ferries has been offering to sell their surplus small ferry, the Hiyu, to the county. The county has repeatedly said no - even up to this week. We ran an article after Tip's article about the Hiyu by guest writer Jim Dickinson, titled “Hiyu Ferry for Lummi Island Service - Explained”. It fully explains how this ferry could serve us well for many years. The Hiyu option is cheaper than running the Whatcom Chief and a lot cheaper than building a new ferry.

In August, I was able to visit the State Ferries operations center on Bainbridge and receive a top to bottom tour of the Hiyu. The state ferry ops folks answered all questions as we toured for two hours. Engine room, decks, passenger cabins and the bridge. Everywhere. That ferry can carry 34 to 38 vehicles in safety - allowing drivers and riders in cars to get in and out of their vehicles at will. The Hiyu was built in 1967 and completely rebuilt in 2005 to 2007. It was lightly used as a backup and emergency ferry and so is in very good condition. The hull is in superb condition and ready for many years of service. I was told that the senior ferry captains consider it the sweetest, most well behaved ferry in the entire state ferry fleet. Plus there are spare propellers and other equipment on the deck for whomever buys it.

This past week, the Hiyu was put up for auction for any other government agencies. If there is no interest then on Monday, Oct 3, it goes up for auction to anyone. My bet is some smart outfit will buy it cheap, keep it moored at some shipyard and wait for the inevitable crisis in Whatcom County with the Whatcom Chief. Then they might sell to the county for a 20 fold profit. It is not too late for our county to bid for the Hiyu. The problem is entirely political. Louws wants to cut all spending to save for his fantasy jail. The council has not been told the true story on the condition of the Whatcom Chief nor of the Hiyu. Exaggerated scare stories have been concocted that the Hiyu is too big or the docks will require millions of dollars in alterations.

Some folks on Lummi Island may not want a larger ferry because they use the bad ferry service as a proxy for preventing increased development on the Island. Many do not like the logging on the mountain and so do not want a ferry that easily accomodates large trucks. Meanwhile, the Whatcom Chief scuttles with urgency back and forth as it often cannot handle all the cars waiting to cross. It often leaves cars waiting 20 minutes for the next run - and in peak times cars and passengers can wait for 2 or 3 ferry runs before then can cross. With reduced loading capacity, this waiting will increase.

If we want the Hiyu, then it will take pressure by citizens towards Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws. He has virtually shut down all discussion by the advisory boards and his Public Works department on this issue. This is a serious shame. He is playing a dangerous game with our safety.

We as a county community should not go near the risk of a third world ferry disaster with lives lost in a sinking of the Whatcom Chief in Hales Passage during a winter storm. We should have a sound, safe ferry of a capacity to serve Lummi Island with a level of service that makes living there as safe and normal as anywhere else in Whatcom County.

I will be pursuing this issue in the coming week, and posting again on this issue.

About John Servais

Writer • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

John Servais

Sep 30, 2016

Have gotten a call from a friend who counted the cars coming off the Whatcom Chief at Lummi Island this evening.  20 vehicles, including some trucks.  Over loaded again.  I will be looking to see if Whatcom County was instructed by the Coast Guard to reduce the loads starting last night.

Read More...

Tip Johnson

Oct 01, 2016

Well, they can make three runs per hour instead of their normal two.  That might make up for any load restrictions without exacerbating islanders’ concerns about increased capacity - except in bad weather.  Wouldn’t help with the summer backlogs much, but that’s the point, right?

Read More...

Tim Paxton

Oct 02, 2016

Are there any brave business people, sitting on the Whatcom County Council,  who can apply financial logic to this situation and write up a quick one page ordinance for a new Ferry (used) vote?

Maybe Councilman Donovan could introduce a ferry purchase ordinance?  He seems to enjoy the concept of logic and public safety.  What say you?

 

Read More...

Wynne Lee

Oct 02, 2016

waiting for John’s report on his rumor about ‘overloading’ the Chief.

yes, there’s been a lot of vehicle traffic the past few days, with waits. Dry dock ended and islanders WANTED to get get their cars back on island, not to mention the hapless visitors who’d been given no clue that this was a really bad time (if you can’t stand waiting) to visit the island.

Read More...

Wynne Lee

Oct 02, 2016

For goodness sake, Tip, would you please stop proclaiming that lots of islanders don’t want a bigger ferry to ‘keep the drawbridge up’ by keeping people out. I know NO one right now with that attitude, maybe yes 10 yrs ago, but NOT NOW (tho some must exist; some probably would tell you the earth is flat, too). And no, claims made by pro-used-ferry-Hiyu advocates are NOT anything even vaguely like reasonably evidence.

Perhaps Tip has some ‘drawbridge’-favoring island friends which he thinks justifies his broadbrush but frankly incorrect and unfair characterization of ‘what islanders think.’

 

Read More...

Wynne Lee

Oct 02, 2016

Anyone *seriously* interested in a more complete Chief / Hiyu story search for ‘hiyu’ on two databases plus the county’s site.
http://lummiislanders.com/ferrydocs/
https://lummiislandferryforum.wordpress.com

Read and listen to it all, not just one viewpoint.

Especially read the County commissioned report comparing the Hiyu and the Chief in size and at the docks. The docks would have to be moved, the landing dredged, the Lummi Nation lease renegotiated and everyone in the County would pay and island residents would have their fares go up.

Also, the Chief gets a regular marine survey and has equipment replaced as needed. All the documents are on the County website.

Read More...

Wynne Lee

Oct 02, 2016

Sorry, I should have cautioned the editor as well as Tip for their unwarranted claim about some? many? islanders not wanting a larger ferry - to ‘stop development.’

Read More...

Sam Crawford

Oct 02, 2016

Sounds like you’re assuming the 10 million dollars to convert the docks would be a wise investment on behalf of the ferry ratepayers and the county road fund taxpayers? I looked at Wynne’s links (thank you Wynne) and I’m not sold. The cost of a new ferry was about 10 million, about 10 years ago. It could be designed to accommodate the current docks, or a new route and dock setup if needed. My instincts, based on many years experience dealing with the aging Whatcom Chief, are to favor constructing a new ferry designed specifically for this run with thought given to potential future changes in Lummi Island ferry access. With the age challenges we face currently with the Whatcom Chief, I remain very reluctant to agree with the acquisition of an already-aging ferry requiring significant capital cost to accommodate it.

Read More...

Wynne Lee

Oct 03, 2016

I’m sure allegations about ‘possible rusting of the hull’ (part of the mis-management claim) will shortly be given objective documentation by posting, here, links to the dry dock marine engineering report and Coast Guard approval.
Note that the Coast Guard wouldn’t have allowed the Chief to return to service - which it did) if the alleged ‘rust bucket’ were unsafe and in danger of sinking.
PS The Chief Kwina, the ferry before the Chief, built in the 1920s or so and retired from public service in the early 1960s, is still in service as Alaskan fish tender. Still ‘ferrying on’, doubtless with work on hull through the decades. Good marine vessel rebuilds and repair can do remarkable things.

Read More...

Wynne Lee

Oct 03, 2016

I agree, Sam. The county should focus on long-term solutions, not temporary patches. Plus I’m not sure the LN would even agree to expanding the Gooseberry Pt dock to accommodate the longer and wider Hiyu, since that would further encroach on their fishing operations. No one should underestimate the LN’s determination, willingness or legal ability to defend their fishing rights.  We all should have learned that lesson with the G’bry Pt lease negotiations.

My hope is that the current ‘energy’ around the Chief vs Hiyu will help the County move forward even more quickly to right-sized replacement of the ferry and docks (and I do mean continue, as work has been moving forward for several years now, despite highly vocal dissatisfaction by some).

I wish (some) citizens and media will consider re-channeling some of their currently outraged energies toward encouraging county officials to move ahead faster.

Read More...

Jim Dickinson

Oct 04, 2016

I’m somewhat dismayed after reading some of the comments to this post. These same items were discussed in the two previous posts, Lummi Island Drawbridge by Tip Johnson, and HIYU service for Lummi Island explained, by Jim Dickinson (me). As chair of the Committee that put together the HIYU Report, I can say that we did a great job, all our facts and figures are accurate, and we covered ALL the contingencies that it would take to make the HIYU work at Lummi Island, and rather inexpensively.

But, for your reading enjoyment, I will recap a few.

1. The old Lummi Island Ferry, the Chief Kwina , built in 1929 was made of wood, wood, as far as I know wood does not rust or corrode. It has been rebuilt several times, I doubt if 1/2 of it is still the original wood. Wooden boats have the ability to last much longer than steel ones in salt water, some of the Seattle based Alaska Troller’s are well over 100 years old, and still going strong. You won’t find any of this fleet made out of steel that’s likely much over 40 years old, the older steel ones have all been scrapped due to corrosion. 
2. The HIYU, as John said in his posting is in great shape. It has 1/2 the hours, 1/5th the docking cycles of the Whatcom Chief, is more efficient, burns less fuel, has more car and people carrying capacity, is more seaworthy, has farther port capacity, is better built, much stouter, rebuilt in stages between 2006-2009, and has 15 plus years of economical life left, due to its being rebuilt.
3. Very few of the County officials and their advisory group LIFAC, ever read the HIYU Report, or its 37 pages of Committee Initiated References, or the 400 plus pages of County, State and Industry reports we referenced. As we were initially a subcommittee of LIFAC, the response their Chair gave us was to fire us, over a obscure and questionable technicality as they did not like what we wrote. The County responded by ordering 3 reports from consultants they had on retainer, a conflict of interest at best.  Every one of the three reports were based on bad or misapplied information, cherry picked from other sources. We responded with three of our own responses to these reports which were given to the County, LIFAC and posted on the local Lummi Island Nextdoor site, repeatedly. I wonder how they were missed by Wynne, in fact I re-posted them again last night. Our responses debunked the misinformation of having to dredge for the boats draft (in fact the first County paid for report, said it wasn’t needed), the extremely prohibitively expensive 7-11 million dock renovations of the second report and the expensive boat remodeling of the third report. I will post them here, for your information. 
4. The Lummi Nation does not control the submerged lands where the dock modifications would be done, it would be on State DNR bedlands. The Whatcom Chief is not mentioned in the lease documents at all, it just says ferry.
5. Just because the Whatcom Chief undergoes a marine survey listing its condition and a Coast Guard Certification that the vessel is usable, does not mean that it is certified for unsafe operation, that is another mater regulated by Part 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations. (CFR’s). According to the applicable rules for a vessel the size of the Whatcom Chief it is unequivocally being run unsafely as to vehicle loading, 46 CFR 185.340. It is one of the previous posts here, or look it up on the Federal Registry.
5. The State engaged a licensed vessel surveyor to provide a survey on the HIYU. I have it, John and Tip have it, it is quite complimentary to the HIYU, the only thing the boat needs is exterior paint, the rest is first class. I unfortunately cannot publish it here as it has sensitive information as to the layout of the engine room and pilot house, which is bared from media distribution by the Dept.of Homeland Security. If you want to see it, get a hold of me and I’ll show it to you.
6. As above, the Whatcom Chief is running illegally as to vehicle loading on the deck. Very often, you cannot get out and away from their vehicles as they are parked too close together. The boat just does not have the room, with appropriate mandated aisle clearance to accommodate the widths of any automobiles currently sold in the United States, they are all too wide. The boat simply does not have the necessary deck space. This is a fact, I have spent many hours trying to explain this and how it is calculated on the local Nextdoor Lummi island site, some appear to not believe it and seem to claim the Whatcom Chief is somehow special and exempt from law. I surely assert, it is not. Actual legal allowable load will be between 8 to 10 vehicles.
7. The New Ferry. Whatcom County does not have the money to build a new ferry, especially with the 100 plus million Jail and the 34 million plus Court House repair on the horizon. the former grants are gone, those that are available are for inside municipalities, we don’t qualify. Obtaining any grants that may be available would take years, the State does not have any, whatever money they have will be going to their underfunded Green and White fleet. The Whatcom chief is running illegally, this cannot continue, it will be shortly de-rated, it will no longer be able to begin to carry the traffic. We need a replacement ferry. now! Not in three to five years, the only appropriate used one in the whole United States is the HIYU, and they want to give it to us. Unless the County operates it in a completely wasteful manner, it will cost less to operate and maintain than the deteriorating Whatcom Chief, plus it will bring in more fares that are now being forgone. Since it will only be out of service for dry=dock every other year, that cost alone will pay for the HIYU, its scheduled hull maintenance, and a new professional paint job that will last at least five years. It’s a real crime that the County flushed over 500K down the drain for this year’s maintenance of the Whatcom Chief.
8. Docks again—The HIYU is not a huge boat, I will post a photo of it with other Washington state Ferries of several sizes. It is a great size for an new ferry, in fact I would go to the size, at least the width,  of one of Pierce County’s slightly bigger boats. A long narrow boat like the one proposed in 2008, can only have its length extended if it needs more capacity, the result is an unwieldy vessel. The shorter wider boats are more maneuverable and can be extended without losing their handling. The two Pierce County ferries are excellent designs which can be either shortened or lengthened. Both are progeny of the HIYU.
The local ferry docks are orphans, they won’t land any bigger ferries, meanwhile State docks can land any ferry from the size of the HIYU to the 202 car 460 feet long Jumbo MK II ferries, and yes, the Pierce County boats too.
By using the figures from the County’s bought and paid for Dock Study, we find that the cost to change the docks would be from less than a million to about 2.5 million to accommodate the existing ferry and the HIYU. If the State can do it, so can we. The 2009 Pile Test Report to the county confirms the new parts of the exisitng docks are strong enough for the un-built “NEW” ferry which is listed as heavier than the HIYU.
What’s maddening is that in 2014, the County narrowed the docking slip of the Gooseberry Point Dock, that previously could land the littleset of the State boats, including the HIYU. Now, only the boats the size of the Whatcom Chief can land there, after 30 plus years of successfully landing the Chief in the previous setup. This was done over the objections of individual citizens, 3 Island groups and in contravention of the 2011 County Ferry Task Force findings. LIFAC said they didn’t know enough to make a comment, although the others seemed to. The dock issue is overblown and exaggerated. 

We need a replacement ferry now, the HIYU is available and inexpensive, and will last for enough time to find the money and get the design right for a new ferry.  Please read the two previous posts, the three responses to the County Consultant Reports. 

http://savetheferry.com/ILIFTC EBDGres1a - MSJ w-Pics-3.doc

http://savetheferry.com/Response to PND Dock Report.doc

http://savetheferry.com/HIYU toncrew.doc

http://savetheferry.com/WSF Aerial Photo.doc

Read More...

Sam Crawford

Oct 04, 2016

Jim - the links you provided aren’t currently working. I hope that can be fixed.

You said “By using the figures from the County’s bought and paid for Dock Study, we find that the cost to change the docks would be from less than a million to about 2.5 million to accommodate the existing ferry and the HIYU.”

Did you have an opportunity to check out the engineer’s analysis Wynne linked to (on the county’s website)? It’s 7 to 11 million dollars just to deal with the dock issues if the Hiyu were to be acquired and fitted. Here’s the link (the $ amounts are on the last page)

http://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/DocumentCenter/View/10663

Footnote: I predict if this were to happen the permitting/engineering cost would exceed the 15% contingency.

Read More...

Jim Dickinson

Oct 04, 2016

Sam,  Right now, NWC is working on getting our links working so you can see them.

Yes, of course we have looked at this report, the PND report, one of our responses directly addresses this. This County ordered report is wildly exaggerated, was done on the orders of the executive branch who doesn’t want any changes in the ferry service, until maybe, after, the new Jail is done.

If you carefully read it you will find the report calls for the demolition of everything seaward of the moveable span towers, which includes all of the existing docking slips, paying to dispose of the wreckage, and installation of all new materials. Since 2009 many new, expensive, mostly steel parts and pilings have been installed to handle the weight and inertia to berth the “NEW” un-built 2008 design 35 car ferry that was not authorized. The HIYU is of a similar weight to the “NEW” so it ought to work just fine.

To yank all the existing out, and throw it away and installing all new would be the equivalent of wanting a new front window in your house, tearing the whole house down, paying for disposal of the junk, and building a new house so you can get the new window.

As in our response, most of the existing piles do not need to be moved, a some need to be moved a few feet outward, as put forward in the first of the three reports, “Elliot Bay Design Group, HIYU Dock Study”, which also confirmed that the HIYU would not need dredging, even though they used the maximum fully loaded draft, in all conditions. You never put a ferry away for the night loaded, and the boat will draw far less draft at normal load, instead of always carrying 12 loaded ten yard dump trucks and a full load of cars! We offered some simple inexpensive solutions in this response.

In 2009, the County paid for a Consultant’s “Pile Test Report”, which confirmed that the newer piles and dolphins (pile assemblies), as installed were stronger than needed for the “NEW” ferry, from the report, “Improved Terminal should be functional for the Whatcom Chief Ferry and any new ferry”. 

On the Lummi Island side, there are three wooden dolphins that need to be replaced now. In our figures we called for replacing two of them and included this in the high-end cost of our estimates, costs taken at mid average of the PND figures. These three dolphins are on the immediate replacement list right now, so they ought not to be include in the costs, as they are usual maintenance.

we have been told by County Bridge Superintendent, James Lee, that the major cost of the new and newer piles and dolphins is in the materials, which are all in excellent condition, throwing them out and replacing them, rather than moving them would be a breach of fiduciary duty, or just a plain needless waste of the Taxpayer’s money.

There are those who think our Committee just pulled all this HIYU stuff out-from-under-our -hat, I assure you we did not. Naysayers even project we are being “mean” to the Whatcom Chief and continue to throw up specious issues to block the HIYU without doing any research of their own at all. If the Whatcom Chief was still adequate, or if we had found a flaw in the HIYU that would have prevented it from working here, I assure you we would not have brought forth the HIYU at all.  Our group of ten, has 6 people on it with engineering backgrounds, including myself. It took 7 months to vet the HIYU, we did a great and thorough job of vetting the HIYU.   

Please feel free to ask any other questions, this nautical stuff doesn’t always directly translate to land based information.

Read More...

Wynne Lee

Oct 05, 2016

The Big Question:  If the Coast Guard (CG) has again certified the Chief (vessel and operations), is there really ‘urgency’ or even accuracy in the claim that the County is malfeasant in not jumping to replace the Chief with the nearly-as-old if wider and longer Hiyu, along with modifying the docks to accommodate it? 

Last week, editor John Servais ... enthusiastically ...  shared the rumor ‘from a friend’ that Coast Guard was about to force the county to shut down or severely restrict vehicles on the Chief because of ‘illegal, unsafe’ loading.

As of today, October 5, the Chief is loading the same way it has for decades. For those who don’t know, the Chief has an objective decades-long stellar safety record. Not perfect, but better than than driving on Haxton or Slater Road, for sure.

John, I trust you will check ASAP with the County (and/or the Coast Guard) and learn what the new CG certificate on the wall of the Chief’s passenger cabin means. Then report back ASAP. You can even go to the ferry to see if the new CG certificate is really there. Do let us know—and as loudly as you trumpeted the rumor.

Read More...

Jim Dickinson

Oct 06, 2016

Well Wynne,

You are right, the Coast Guard has certified the Ferry boat as safe to operate, after pouring nearly a million dollars into it in the last two years, it better be.  Now on that new Certificate of Inspection (COI), that is posted in the passenger cabin, does it say that the Whatcom Chief’s operators do not have to obey Federal Safety Laws? Is it written on the COI that the operators are exempt from following 46CFR 185.340 the Vehicle loading rule for ferries of the classification of the Whatcom Chief? If so, it should be stated, in writing, right there and signed by someone authorized to do so.

For your reading pleasure, here is a copy of the Safety Rule:

46 CFR 185.340 - Vessels carrying vehicles.
eCFR Authorities (U.S. Code)

§ 185.340 Vessels carrying vehicles.

(a) Automobiles or other vehicles must be stowed in such a manner as to permit both passengers and crew to get out and away from the vehicles freely in the event of fire or other disaster. The decks, where necessary, must be distinctly marked with painted lines to indicate the vehicle runways and the aisle spaces.

(b) The master shall take any necessary precautions to see that automobiles or other vehicles have their motors turned off and their emergency brakes set when the vessel is underway, and that the motors are not started until the vessel is secured to the landing. In addition, a vehicle at each end of a line of vehicles or next to a loading ramp must have its wheels securely blocked, while the vessel is being navigated.

(c) The master shall have appropriate “NO SMOKING” signs posted and shall take all necessary precautions to prevent smoking or carrying of lighted or smoldering pipes, cigars, cigarettes, or similar items in the deck area assigned to automobiles or other vehicles.

(d) The master shall, prior to getting underway, ensure that vehicles are properly distributed consistent with the guidance in the vessel’s stability letter and Certificate of Inspection, if applicable.
—————

As for the 7-11 million for the docks, that’s hogwash, three dolphins (pile assemblies) need to be replaced right now and are on the to be replaced later this fall, so that ought to be off the table as normal maintenance. What we don’t want the County to do is to restrict the berths to a boat the size of the Whatcom Chief like they did in 2014 after 30 plus years successfully landing the Whatcom Chief, in a berth that would have landed the HIYU and other larger boats.

The amount to make the HIYU work in the docks could be as low as less than a million. Our group put out the following reports last year, they were sent to the County, LIFAC and posted on line. Three of us had a great meeting with the Public Works Director last week and showed him our work, he appeared to not be aware of them.
————
To all Readers;

Here’s the corrected links to the three Independent Committee Reports that correspond to the County’s paid for reports on Docks and HIYU Class Re- rate. These responses debunk the County’s objections to the HIYU on physical basis, the last ones I posted didn’t work, please let me know if these do. The first one may take a while to load.

http://savetheferry.com/ILIFTC%20EBDGres1a%20-%20MSJ%20w-Pics-3.doc

http://savetheferry.com/Response%20to%20PND%20Dock%20Report.doc

http://savetheferry.com/HIYU%20toncrew.doc

http://savetheferry.com/WSF%20Aerial%20Photo.doc


Read More...

Jim Dickinson

Oct 06, 2016

Once again we can’t seem to get the links to work. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Read More...

John Servais

Oct 06, 2016

Well, Wynne, today the US Coast Guard was all over the Lummi ferry, measuring the decks and investigating the loading.  Of course it will take a few days or maybe weeks before we know if any changes will result.

Your comment that I am spreading “rumors” is a bit cramped.  When I talk to government officials or elected representatives and it is all off the record then I have to take hits such as yours.  But I do not casually post gossip or opinions as fact.  I don’t waste a lot of words saying I talked to a “high official” or crap like that.

You write above “As of today, October 5, the Chief is loading the same way it has for decades.”  Yes, Wynne.  But today, October 6, it was not loading as usual.  The Coast Guard was there to investigate issues. The Coast Guard was alerted not by gossip or rumor but by photos sent to them of the Whatcom Chief overloaded.  Hard evidence.  The folks at the CG that I talked to weeks ago were quite concerned.  Their visit is evidence of that. 

Wynne, you are a strong proponent for your beliefs and those of many if not most Lummi Islanders.  But lets not be so offensive to those who disagree with you, lest you your words come back to you.  I will be staying on this issue.  I have heard enough off the record from experts to think there are some serious problems with the Lummi Island ferry service.  Safety for all is being left to chance.

Read More...

Wynne Lee

Oct 07, 2016

Glad you’re following up diligently, John.

Read More...

Wynne Lee

Oct 10, 2016

The surprise Coast Guard inspection of Whatcom Chief loading operations last week, are complete. I’m sure nwcitizen is waiting for the full written report before posting the results here.

My sincere thanks to John Servais and others who pushed, complained etc to make this happen. I’ve heard the ‘unsafe, illegal loading’ claims for years, at least back to 2005.

My hope is the surprise inspection report will finally bring closure to this issue - tho I’m not betting on that ;-)

Read More...

Wynne Lee

Oct 11, 2016

Good news for some, at least. The recent surprise CG inspection of the Chief and its operations that John mentioned DID NOT result in the CG immediately withdrawing their certificate (in passenger cabin) deeming the vessel and its operations passed their safety inspection. Loading goes on today same as for decades. (PW informed LIFAC, the county-appointed citizens ferry advisory committee, last Sunday that the Chief and operations passed the surprise inspection.)

I trust that if there’s more substantive, objective info from the CG about the Chief’s alleged ‘illegal’ loading, it’ll be reported here, soon. I know some believe that it may take days or weeks for a final report, but doesn’t it seem highly unlikely that if current loading were as horribly unsafe and illegal that the CG would have let it continue? Well, the wheels of gvmt generally move very slowly, so things could change. We’ll see.

Read More...

Jim Dickinson

Oct 12, 2016

I have been told by two U.S. Coast Guard Officials the the applicable Law, 46 CFR 185.340 (available above) is indeed the proper regulation for a T class vessel of the size of the Whatcom Chief and is to be interpreted in plain English, exactly as written. Therefore, the Whatcom Chief has often been operating in violation of that law since its inception in 1978.

From what I know, the investigation is ongoing, and the conclusion has not yet been released. I also know the cramming of the ferry deck is just as bad as it was before the inspection, the other day I saw 6 violations on two trips in one day, as the plain English text lays out the law.

If the investigation is complete, please let us see the findings. on paper and with a official signature that says it’s OK to violate the CFR and operate the deck loading as it is. 

as I am not privy to what went on when the boat was visited by the coast Guard, until the above findings are released, , all pronouncements and are simply hearsay and certainly not binding.

Read More...

Wynne Lee

Oct 20, 2016

Public auction site says the Hiyu auction is closed. http://www.publicsurplus.com/sms/state,wa/auction/view?auc=1699398

Read More...
Facebook Google LinkedIn Print Reddit Twitter