Port of Kingston suspends passenger ferry service for repairs

  - Brad Camp/File Photo
— image credit: Brad Camp/File Photo

KINGSTON — The Port of Kingston suspended passenger ferry service to Seattle indefinitely Thursday after a second engine failed on the Spirit of Kingston.

Ferry Programs Manager Karen Arnold said SoundRunner service will not resume for at least two weeks as repairs are made to the Spirit. The port will also use the time to improve its rider alert system and make provisions for the ORCA card system before relaunching, Arnold said.

"I felt like I needed to stop, get these repairs done and get this fixed right," said Arnold, who took over as manager in late October. "I want to get this right, get the boat healthy and get this straightened out."

SoundRunner sailings have been cancelled on seven of the 24 days the ferry has been in operation, due to both bad weather and mechanical failures. A starboard side engine threw a rod on the first day of service and the Spirit has been operating on three of its four engines ever since. The engine was supposed to be replaced last week but the port was unable to reach an agreement with the engine's warranty company.

Arnold said the second starboard engine failed Thursday morning, before the first sailing from Kingston, disabling the Spirit completely. Arnold said she is confident the replacement will be covered under the engine's warranty.

Meanwhile the port's backup boat, Victoria Express, is still not being used on the route. Arnold said the crew is now certified to operate the vessel but the monohull ferry is too unstable at the dock to safely load passengers. So far the port hasn't found a way to make the boat stable with its existing facilities.

"At the dock she pitches wildly," Arnold said. "It's just not safe."

Arnold said once the Spirit is fixed service could resume without a backup boat if necessary.

About 30 passengers are riding SoundRunner daily, far fewer than the port had hoped for in its first months of operation. Arnold said frequent cancellations have made some riders leery of trying the service.

"It's easy to understand, because people need reliability," Arnold said.

Check back for more details.

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