PHOTO: Why did the Walla Walla ferry sail past Burien?

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From resident Elston Hill:

When a ferry sails past Burien, you know it is a ferry being repaired or in maintenance.

In the case of the Walla Walla, it is a vessel that suffered severe damage last fall and has been out of commission for months (click image to view larger version):

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND – A failure in one of the drive motors on the 188-car ferry, Walla Walla, has left parts of the ferry near the engine melted and charred, and the vessel is inoperable and out of service indefinitely.

The incident happened while the vessel was in for routine, regularly scheduled maintenance work on Sunday, Nov. 4. This includes inspection of electrical drive motors, overhauling the boiler and pre-checks for U.S. Coast Guard annual inspections.

The Walla Walla, one of the largest in the fleet, will be out of service for at least the next few months while crews work to repair the vessel. The drive motor that was damaged is one of four motors that turn the propellers.

Immediately following the incident, the Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division started an internal investigation per standard protocol. Preliminary findings indicate that there was no explosion.

“This is a serious incident and we’re going to do a very thorough and detailed investigation into what happened,” said David Moseley, WSDOT assistant secretary, ferries division. “We hope to return the vessel to service as soon as possible.”

Due to the severity of the damage, the investigation has been elevated to a third party contractor, Cadick Corporation. They will be assisted by WSDOT ferries division’s senior port engineers, safety systems managers, and electrical engineers. WSDOT has also reached out to the Department of Labor and Industries and the U.S. Coast Guard for assistance to ensure that all employee safety requirements were met. Detailed results of the investigation are expected within two to three weeks.

In an effort to repair the Walla Walla, WSDOT is working with the engine manufacturer to see if it’s possible to use a spare drive motor that WSDOT already owns and has in a warehouse. If the spare motor will work, WSDOT hopes to move it to the manufacturer’s shop by the end of next week.

Ferry vessels will be shifted throughout the system in an effort to maintain service for passengers while the Walla Walla is unavailable. Customers can keep up to date on vessel changes by signing up for route email alerts.

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