Safety & security
Learn about the steps we take to ensure the safety and security of our passengers, including the roles of all riders and those driving a vehicle onto a ferry.
We follow a U.S. Coast Guard approved safety and security plan. All riders should be aware of the following:
The role of all riders
All riders have an important role to play in preventing a terrorist act from occurring at a terminal or on a ferry. Riders represent the best “eyes and ears” for detecting something out of the ordinary, or “just not right.” Here are a few suggestions of what riders can do:
- Be observant: If something doesn't look right, trust your instincts and report what you observed as accurately as possible to a crewmember, terminal employee or law enforcement official.
- Do not leave any personal belongings unattended, even for a few minutes. Items that are not deemed to be a suspicious package will be treated as “lost and found” and removed from the vessel or terminal.
- Be aware of what items are not allowed on a ferry and make sure they are not in your vehicle or a part of your carry-on items.
- Follow security-related instructions given to you by our employees or Washington State Patrol (WSP) troopers.
- Do not leave behind a bicycle or vehicle. These items can trigger a significant security response and affect schedules. Washington Administrative Code 468-300-040 allows us to impose penalty charges for the owner of vehicles without drivers.
Passenger Code of Conduct
The Washington State Ferries Diversity Advisory Group developed a Passenger Code of Conduct (PDF 1.3MB) to help ensure the safety and security of passengers and employees. The Code of Conduct advises riders of a zero-tolerance harassment policy. The use of abusive or offensive language to crewmembers or fellow passengers is strictly prohibited. Violating this policy may lead to a time specific no-trespass order by law enforcement. The Code of Conduct is comprised of three parts – terminal and vessel announcements, posters and a “yellow card” given to those in violation.
The role of those driving a vehicle onto a ferry
Anyone driving aboard a ferry should be aware of potentially unsafe conditions and make every effort to create a safe environment. Drivers are responsible for the control of their vehicle and should make adjustments as needed to drive safely and avoid collisions.
If requested, terminal and vessel crews are available to assist drivers in navigating aboard a ferry, but each driver remains responsible for their actions and consequences related to the maneuvering of their vehicle. Refer to Revised Code of Washington 46.61 “Rules of the Road” regarding your legal responsibilities.
All vehicles are subject to screening
WSP troopers may walk among vehicles in the holding lanes at all terminals for the purpose of ensuring illegal explosive materials are not taken aboard. The troopers may be accompanied by explosive-detection dogs. The dogs are trained to detect explosive materials only. If the dog detects explosive materials, the vehicle will be physically inspected and will not be allowed onto a ferry until the situation is resolved.
Federal regulations state that entry into a terminal and boarding a vessel are deemed valid consent to the screening or inspection of vehicles. Anyone who refuses a screening or inspection will not be allowed on board a ferry.
Captain’s permission required to disembark the vessel
Once loading begins before each sailing, the captain’s permission is required to disembark the vessel. If a rider needs to disembark shortly after boarding, they will need to explain the circumstances to a crewmember. The crewmember will then alert the captain, who will resolve the situation and make a final determination. The captain may ask the rider to show a valid piece of identification.
If a person would like to assist a rider in boarding, but does not plan to travel themselves, they will need to alert a ticket seller or terminal employee as early in the boarding process as possible.
A rider that gets off of a ferry, or attempts to get off a ferry without permission will be considered suspicious and may cause sailing delays as the situation is investigated.
Maritime Security (MARSEC) Levels
The USCG uses a three-tiered system of Maritime Security (MARSEC) Levels to reflect the threat environment to the marine elements of the national transportation system in general or WSF in particular. Signs displaying the current MARSEC Level are posted in terminals and on vessels.
- At MARSEC Level 1, which represents normal day-to-day security, only select measures contained in WSF’s security plan will be implemented.
- At MARSEC Levels 2 or 3, more security procedures will apply, such as increased vehicle screening. WSP troopers may need to supplement the dog screening with physical inspections of enclosed compartment areas to meet requirements. A typical physical screening will include a visual inspection by a trooper of enclosed compartment areas.