Ruby Princess cruise ship damaged while docking in SF; passengers still waiting to depart

Friday, July 7, 2023
Passengers still waiting to depart after Ruby Princess damaged in SF
Princess Cruise says that the Ruby Princess hit Pier 27 in San Francisco while docking, causing damage to the ship and the dock.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The Ruby Princess cruise ship hit Pier 27 in San Francisco while docking Thursday morning, the U.S. Coast Guard says.

The Coast Guard says there is damage to both the ship's hull and the dock.

In a statement, Princess Cruise described the collision as "unexpected contact" as they were docking just after 6 a.m.

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At 9:40 p.m., Ruby Princess told ABC7 News in a statement the departure time frame has not yet been determined, as the damage is still being assessed:

Princess Cruises is in continued discussions with the U.S. Coast Guard regarding clearance for Ruby Princess to depart San Francisco, but a departure timeframe has not yet been confirmed. The safety of our guests and crew remain our top priority, and Ruby Princess will depart once the ship is deemed by U.S. Coast as fit to sail. The cruise line's technical experts and shoreside team will remain working on this situation, and the ship will set sail from San Francisco should clearance to depart be received at any time tonight. Additional updates regarding the ship's status and revised itinerary will be provided in the morning. Princess will also be providing a goodwill gesture of compensation once the full effect of the necessary changes is known.

While that departure time is still being determined, Princess Cruises says passengers boarded at 11:30 a.m.

Thursday morning, the ship had 3,328 guests on board with 1,159 crew members and was completing a 10-day cruise to Alaska that left San Francisco on June 26.

"I noticed we were spinning pretty quick, to be that close to the dock, and I was mid-ship, portside, looked out the window and we smacked into the dock," Sacramento resident and passenger Paul Zasso told ABC7 News.

Passengers still on board and those on the ground were trying to get a glimpse of the damage.

"It was surreal and you could definitely feel it," Sacramento resident and passenger Jeremy Jordan told ABC7 News. "It wasn't like things falling off the shelves or anything like that, kind of like when you get the tugboats coming up against us. So yeah... it was different."

While on scene, ABC7 News watched as San Francisco police surveyed the ship.

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In a statement, Princess Cruises reported no injuries, adding, "At no time were any guests or crew in danger."

"It was so funny, because one of the dock guys, you can hear him yell out like 'whoa' and then you can kind of hear it just slowly going in... and when he came back out, I wasn't sure what to see," Jordan added.

The shouting from the dock worker is what woke up Jordan's wife. The couple, avid cruisegoers, said Thursday morning's experience is one he won't soon forget.

"It's ironic, because I think it was yesterday the captain was talking about how he goes into docks and how unpredictable the currents are," Jordan shared. "So yeah, it's a challenge for them to be able to do that."

Passengers still waiting to depart San Francisco

"I don't swim that good. I just think they patch it up," said Jim Simpson.

Simpson is onboard the ship with his family waiting to depart for their trip to Alaska.

After a little creative thinking, we got each other's attention while he was standing on the balcony of his room.

However, Simpson says he's not worried, and that the captain has kept everyone updated.

"It's a 10-day cruise, there's plenty of time, we can make up time moving and things like that. So I don't think it's going to be an issue truthfully," Simpson said.

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Now the question is: when will the ship actually leave?

Experts say it really depends on the extent of the damage - which Princess has not elaborated on.

"It depends on where the damage is. Is it at the waterline? Is it above? Is it below the waterline? Is there an actual penetration in the hull?" said Steve Browne.

Browne is a dean at Cal State Maritime. He says if the ship is just dented, it's probably safe to set sail.

But if damage is more extensive, that could change things.

"If there's a hole in the hull, then no it would not be safe for them to go to sea until it's repaired," Browne said.

Despite the delay running into the night time hours, Simpson says the mood on the ship remains pretty happy.

He even tells us, his family doesn't mind a little extra time here in the Bay Area.

"We haven't been to San Francisco in a number of years. First time for the granddaughters so we're having fun just looking at the skyline." Simpson said.

Investigation into the bar pilot

We're learning more about the Ruby Princess pilot. In some ways, this is an elite group. There aren't many bar pilots, 52 at the moment with four trainees in the pipeline according to the Board of Pilot Commissioners Executive Director.

The investigation into what went wrong with the Ruby Princess during docking at San Francisco's Pier 27 Thursday morning is in the early fact finding phase.

"It appears the port quarter of the Ruby Princess made contact with Pier 27," said U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander William Williams.

The Coast Guard which is assisting in the investigation says the pilot is being drug and alcohol tested which is standard in a serious marine incident.

"The Coast Guard has sent two teams, an investigations team and an inspection port state control team to the vessel and will be conducting those inspections and investigations," said Williams.

We're learning more about the bar pilot of Ruby Princess after the cruise ship hit Pier 27 in San Francisco while docking Thursday morning.

The San Francisco Bar Pilots are responsible for safely navigating ships they board over the offshore sand bar to docks throughout the Bay Area.

A Spokesperson working with the San Francisco Bar Pilots tells ABC7 News, "We can confirm a pilot was involved in a hard landing at Pier 27 this morning. We are cooperating with all necessary agencies in looking into this matter and cannot comment further."

The Board of Pilot Commissioners tells ABC7 News the pilot is on the Pilot Evaluation Committee which is responsible for trainees and that anyone on that committee would have to be a pilot more than 10 years.

The investigation is now in the hands of the U.S. Coast Guard and other federal agencies who were notified about the early morning incident.

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