Al Gilson, Communications Manager
WSDOT Eastern Region
2714 N. Mayfair
Spokane, WA 99206
509-324-6015 or 509-990-1504 (cell)
Steering system issue disrupted service for seven days
SPOKANE –The Keller Ferry is back in service as of 12:30 p.m. today (Friday, May 16).
An elusive issue with the computerized steering system on the Keller Ferry vessel, M/V Sanpoil, disrupted regular service on the Columbia River route for the past seven days.
Last Friday, May 9, at about 3:30 p.m., one of the ferry operators experienced an anomaly in the steering of the vessel. A supervisor was advised and the vessel was taken out of service.
WSDOT advised the US Coast Guard of the steering issue and they officially removed the vessel from passenger service until the steering system could be inspected by the manufacturer, Rolls Royce. The Coast Guard is only allowing the vessel to operate to move the ramp terminals, as needed, to accommodate the frequent lake level changes.
Motorists were advised to use alternate routes. Messages were posted on the advance signs, broadcast on the Highway Advisory Radio station that covers terminal areas, and placed on the Washington state Ferries telephone information system. The Spokane Regional Transportation Management Center sent out a media alert and noted the disruption on its Twitter feed. Also, WSDOT Davenport Maintenance sent out a service disruption notice to their extensive e-mail alert list.
Rolls Royce representatives were on site early Wednesday, May 14 and inspected the vessel. After two days of extensive tests, they were unable to find anything wrong with the steering systems. Rolls Royce reported this to the Coast Guard, and the vessel was approved to return to service. The Coast Guard did put a restriction in place that no operation would be allowed in winds 30 knots (45 mph) or greater.