Coast Guard investigating incident involving Southport-Fort Fisher Ferry

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Submitted: Wed, 05/15/2013 - 3:25pm
Updated: Wed, 05/15/2013 - 6:05pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Coast Guard is investigating an incident yesterday involving the Southport-Fort Fisher Ferry, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

DOT spokeswoman Hollie Allen says around 6:30 p.m. a wave crashed over a ferry as it headed from Fort Fisher to Southport. She says there were 40 passengers, six crew members and 25 vehicles on board when it happened. The DOT believes the wake of a passing cargo ship caused the large wave.

Allen says the Southport-Fort Fisher Ferry makes about 11,000 runs a year, and the DOT says this is the first time an incident like this has happened.

Allen says the ferry was not damaged, and that it is in operation today.

The Coast Guard has not yet returned a call about the investigation.


  • Guest-o-matic says:

    …but at low tide, even a slow moving container ship is going to generate a substantial wake in passing proximity of the ferry. The ferry Captain did an excellent job of recognizing the hazard and positioning his vessel “bow to” the wave. Otherwise, if that wave had been taken to the vessels beam, much more serious damage and even injuries most likely would have resulted!

    Great job Ferry pilot!

  • Guest crabber says:

    I hope the USCG takes a close look at the Ferry’s plot log on the day of the incident. As a commercial fisherman (crabber) have always been perplexed as to why some of the ferry captains travel outside of the marked channel near horseshoe shoals on the west side of the CFR. It is common to see a loaded ferry navigate out of the channel and travel in 15 to 20 feet of water (northbound and southbound). I do not know the ferry was out of the channel when the incident occurred; however, wakes fron ships build dramatically when they approach shallow water.

  • Wilmington Observer says:

    Unfortunately, in this age of, “not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings” the State of North Carolina taxpayers (YOU) will probably end up paying for the damaged vehicles and for everyone who complains of a sore neck. The, above, comments are correct; the marine vessel that produced the wave (wake) is legally responsible. However, my bet is that it is on its way back to China to load up on the merchandise for the Porters Neck WalMart.

    Wilmington Observer

  • ilmNCnative says:

    I would think that the container ship would likely have been captained by a local river pilot. If that is the case, then the Pilot could be at fault.

    I travel the ferry periodically and hope that with this incident that ferry workers will allow for more room between vehicles. We’ve historically been packed in there pretty tight. I’m not sure if this would have made a difference, but from what little I could see in the video it could have kept vehicles from hitting each other or at least reduced the amount of damage.


  • RSimmons says:

    Going over no wake speed through the narrows has become an increasing problem with these large ships. Pressured by tight schedules the captains pressure the river pilots who in turn go too fast. This river pilot should have his butt in a sling and the ship owners should be hit with a huge fine.

  • Guest-o-matic says:

    …with your efforts to chop on the ferry Captains seamanship like that. The cell phone video was very limited and of poor quality. One cannot tell if he was able to quarter the wave or not, I tend to believe he did. If that wave had slapped the beam, which it would’ve if he hadn’t turned, a lot more damage and injury would have resulted!

    Remember, a 500 ton vessel doesn’t slow down or change vector anything like your weenie john boat when something unexpected happens! That’s why HE is the ferry Captain and YOU’RE the john boat cappy wannabe. Good luck catching your pinfish limit Capt.!

  • LicenseCapt says:

    One more thing that has yet to be mentioned, and I am not defending the container ship and its wake…the ferry captain may also be a contributing factor.

    It is apparent to me at the beginning of the video that it is a large wake…larger than what you would normally encounter on the CFR. This could also be due, in part, to tide, current, and wind direction which are compounding the size.

    If I were to see this coming at me…I would slow my speed and steer to approach the wave at a quartering angle because of the ferry’s low bow configuration. If I am dead in the water and hit by a wake going 15 knots, then I have been hit with a force of water at 15 knots. If I don’t slack my speed and maintain 15 knots, then I have been hit with a force double that.

    Any large wave should be approached slowly…I’ll bet the captain was gawking like everyone else. The ferries operate like a Disney ride…rote speed on rails.

  • Really? says:

    1600 Ton Unlimited, maritime investigator. I have more time sitting on the head backing down through 20 swells than you have going forward in 1′ chop. You see what you see based on your experience. You’re likely a peep or USN Retired.

    The EU (UK) assesses every accident as a percentage of fault. According to the International Rules of the Road…that short bit of video would be enough to assign blame proportionally.

    If I’m driving a ferry boat ANY WHERE in the NC Ferry Division, I’m not exactly a first stringer on the A team.

  • Guest28764533 says:

    wow a wave hit the Ferry ?…….While in operation?……on the water. I doubt the coast guard has time for absured reports, they probably will not ever return your call.

  • Jim2A says:

    Actually a boat is responsible for its wake. The large container ship was more than likely traveling way too fast creating huge wake that was dangerous to all the other vessels in the area. If it caused that many problems for the ferry, think of what it did to all the small fishing / recreational boats that could have been in the area at the time.

    The Coast Guard should investigate and fine the Capt of the container vessel for whatever rules of navigation he/she violated.

  • Guest CommonTater says:

    More to it than “just a wave”.

  • NO LIBERAL says:

    At the time it was about 1 hour before low tide.Falling tide SW wind the river probably had 3-4 ft seas already. Now with a ship trying to beat the tide. Problems,Not much the ferry could do but to steer into it and hope for the best.I have been there it is not fun.

  • GuestFiredog says:

    While it is always a Captain’s ship, where was the River Pilot who is supposed to on the bridge? He is also accountable or should be since they take them in and take them out. USCG needs to TALK to them also. Unfortuante, but then again, the sea is not a forgiving Lady most days.

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