PHOTOS: Large container ship makes abrupt U-turn off Burien, blows fog horn

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If you heard the sounds of a mysterious fog horn blaring early Thursday afternoon (like we did in Olde Burien), BTB Reader Elston Hill has an explanation:

“The ship Hyundai Force was going south to Tacoma at 1:15 p.m. when it made a U-turn and proceeded slowly in a northern direction.

When the ship made the U-turn it was just north of Three Tree Point.

As it made the U-turn, it blew its fog horn several times.

Clearly must be a response to the strong winds.

Note the trail of white behind the ship showing where it made its U-Turn.”




Elston adds:

I wonder if it was wind? Or mechanical problems?

On the internet, it now shows the destination of the ship as Port Angeles. Port Angeles does have facilities for making ship repairs.

If you look up the ship, you will clearly see its track and the U-turn it made shortly before getting to the buoy at Three Tree Point.


Ship now appears to be headed back south again. Internet site still shows destination of Port Angeles and lags in showing location, but does show the beginning of the turn. But it is visible to me coming back south.

The ship did turn around, but then it turned in between Blake and Bainbridge Island. It is visible on the satellite map between the two islands. The ship just disappeared from my view behind Blake Island.

Hopefully everything’s okay with this large ship, but keep your eyes – and ears – open!

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9 Responses to “PHOTOS: Large container ship makes abrupt U-turn off Burien, blows fog horn”
  1. abby says:

    Thanks Elston and B-Town blog! Always something going on off of 3TP. 🙂

  2. Peggy says:

    Thanks B-Town Blog. I watched the ship make the turn wondering what was happening. Thought maybe they were training crews or something. As it retraced it’s course north it was sure moving slowly.

    • John Scragg says:

      After a 180 degree turn like that ships lose more than half of their speed.
      The pilot probably started the turn at a slower speed to avoid excessive heeling.

  3. ShellyC says:

    It’s stopped or anchored off of Manchester now.

  4. John Scragg says:

    The ship is at anchor northwest of Blake Island.
    That is a designated anchorage for ships and safer than Commencement Bay in Tacoma.
    There could be several reasons why the pilot turned the ship around.
    1. The dock workers are on a ‘go slow’ right now, so ships are being delayed and stacking up. so maybe the pilot was told that the dock would not be available.
    2. It could be too windy to take the ship up the Blair Waterway. This is less likely as the winds are only 15knots with 22knot gust in the Blair Waterway. 25 to 30 knots would be more like the no go limit.
    3. Mechanical failure is a very unlikely scenario. If a rudder failure caused that turn, the pilot would have stopped the ship and called for tug assistance while the repair was being made. Rudder failures are extremely rare. I’ve worked on ships since 1978 and never experienced one:-)
    My bet is scenario 1.

    • As of 8 p.m. tonight, the ship has been parked behind Blake Island for more than seven hours and is still stationery there. The satellite web tracking services still show a Port Angeles detination.

      • John Scragg says:

        They are going to shift to Tacoma tomorrow when the other ship leaves their dock.
        The destination information is input by the ship’s crew into their automatic identification system (AIS). It’s not unusual for it to be wrong. They probably put Port Angeles because that is where they pick up the pilot.

  5. james says:

    How can we work slow when they fire us 3 hours into the shift. Our move counts are based in an 8 hour shift. So know what your talking about before you judge us…

    • Elston Hill says:

      Today, Wednesday, Nov 12, there are three large ships anchored between Blake Island and Bainbridge Island, five ships anchored outside Tacoma harbor, and one more large ship anchored at the south tip of Vashon Island.

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