State aims to stop ferries from leaning when empty

Washington State Ferries will soon take the lean out of its three newest ferries.

Adjustments will be made so the Chetzemoka, Salish and Kennewick will no longer list when the boats are empty, Assistant Secretary of Transportation David Moseley said Thursday. The work involves adding tons of ballast on each vessel.

“It’s a simple fix,” he said.

Customers, crew members and lawmakers have complained about the list on the 64-car vessels since the first of the boats, the Chetzemoka, went into service in 2010. They don’t like looking at it and worry it will be a cause of future maintenance problems.

Moseley said he made the decision in response to the concerns.

“We haven’t done it because we don’t think and we still don’t think it creates a long-term problem for the vessels,” he said.

Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, applauded the news.

“It’s a topic of discussion that I’ve been having with the Department of Transportation for several months now,” she said. “I’m pleased they are going to take action.”

The boats are designed to lean when there are no vehicles because not all the weight is evenly distributed.

On each boat, the stairs, elevator and exhaust pipes are grouped together in one spot which puts more weight on that side of the boat, explained Cotty Fay, chief naval architect for the Washington State Ferries. When cars and trucks load, it balances out the vessel, he said.

The state plans to pour steel shot – a granular material used for sandblasting – into existing metal box-like containers on top of each boat’s two fuel tanks, Fay said. It’s going to take about 180,000 pounds of steel shot for the vessels.

Moseley estimated the fix will cost $300,000 and be finished by the end of June.

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