Investigation: $7.7M ferry accident caused by lack of ‘situational awareness’

Ferry captain reportedly resigned the day after the incident and did not help investigators.

A formal investigation from Washington State Ferries into a July 28, 2022, ferry accident at the Fauntleroy Terminal in Seattle has concluded that the collision occurred because the “Captain lost situational awareness while standing at the helm landing the vessel.”

The weather was reportedly “clear, negligible wind and an ebbing tide,” during a scheduled run between the Vashon Island Ferry Terminal and the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal. The MV Cathlamet had an “allision” — a vessel strike with a stationary object — with a group of pilings know as a “dolphin” at approximately 8:13 a.m.

The incident caused an estimated $7.7 million in damage to the Cathlamet ferry and an offshore piling structure at the Fauntleroy Terminal.

Following the incident, Washington State Ferries immediately launched an internal investigation to determine the cause.

The captain resigned the day after the accident and has not provided an explanation as to what happened, according to Washington State Ferries. The drug and alcohol tests reportedly came up as negative.

“Because Capt. refused to answer any of the questions presented to him during this process, we cannot draw a definitive conclusion as to the cause of his loss of situational awareness,” the report read. “However, we can conclude that his loss of situational awareness was the primary cause of this incident, and that absent this loss of situational awareness, the allision would most likely not have occurred.”

As a result of the internal investigation, Washington State Ferries reported additional policies and training are under development. In addition, “black box” data recorders have been installed aboard Cathlamet and will become standard equipment on all vessels, according to the agency.

The agency also reported that Separate Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board investigations are ongoing, and there isn’t a release date set at this time.

According to WSF spokesperson Justin Fujioka, the Cathlamet ferry will be put back into use if it passes sea tests conducted on March 31.

In the case, “The vessel will go into service [on March 31] on our Edmonds/Kingston route for a short week-long stint while Issaquah goes in for repairs,” Fujioka said, in an email. “Cathlamet is then scheduled to move to our “Triangle” route on April 9 or 10, in preparation for the start of three-boat trial service on April 17.”

To read the full, 17-page WSF report on the crash, which redacts all names of crew members, visit