Kennicott delayed after hitting bottom

Posted: Wednesday, June 04, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) The ferry Kennicott hit a rock in Wrangell Narrows early Tuesday morning and will be out of service until the damage is repaired.

Alaska Marine Highway System Operations Manager Jack Meyers said the ferry was heading north toward Petersburg about 4:30 a.m., when it hit a rock in an area known as Green Rocks.

''It is extremely narrow,'' Meyers said. ''We sometimes refer to it as the ditch.''

Damage appears to be limited to a part of the ship called the forepeak tank, which is at the tip of the forward part of the ship, AMHS General Manager George Capacci said.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation, he said.

Capacci said 163 passengers, 56 vehicles and 59 crew members were aboard at the time. No one was injured.

Initially about 40 gallons of water were found in the forepeak tank, which has the capacity for 31,000 gallons, Meyers said. That tank could fill completely without being unsafe, Meyers said.

The ferry continued to Petersburg after the incident, where it let off a few passengers and took on a few more, Meyers said.

It arrived in Juneau at about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, where divers went to work assessing the damage to the ship's hull.

Marine Highway System, U.S. Coast Guard and American Bureau of Shipping officials are investigating the incident, Capacci said.

The ferry will be taken to Alaska Ship and Drydock in Ketchikan for repairs. The boat was expected to leave for Ketchikan early Wednesday morning and could arrive there Wednesday night, Meyers said. He hopes repairs can be done in less than 24 hours, but won't know that until it's clearer what has to be done.

The incident will cause some delays, but most people should be able to reschedule their travel on another vessel within 12-24 hours, Capacci said.

Passengers who were scheduled to take the Kennicott from Juneau on Tuesday northbound for Haines or Skagway were instead being put on the ferry Malaspina on Wednesday morning, Capacci said.

Those who were to head south from Juneau on Wednesday afternoon on the Kennicott will be scheduled early Thursday morning on the Malaspina, he said.

Capacci said the good news is the ferry Columbia, which was out of service last week because of a minor engine fire, will come back on line Wednesday.

The Malaspina had been brought into service early to fill in for the Columbia. It was not scheduled for any runs until June 8, so it should be able to handle traffic from the Kennicott without causing further disruptions in the ferry system's schedule, Capacci said.

''If this happens a month from now, we'll be really scrambling,'' Capacci said.

For updates on scheduling, passengers can call 1-800-642-0066.

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