What’s the Formula for Ferry Loading and Unloading?

By Wendy Wallace

Many factors go into the ferry loading and unloading. Normally, an initial group of cars gets directed to the front center area of the boat, what is called the “tunnel.” After cars reach the first set of stairwells, sides are filled up, starting with the lower level and finishing with the top level. The back of the tunnel is last.

Why not fill the whole tunnel first? Large vehicles can only park in the tunnel, so space is left for late arrivals. Kingston’s ferry, for example, gets several logging trucks each morning. Ordinarily, unloading matches the order of loading.

However, special circumstances like medical emergencies, police or federal marshals in unmarked cars, and even school buses, can wreak havoc on the first-in, first-out system, as ferry workers scramble to get a clear path for whatever vehicle needs to get off the boat quickest. For example, in some cases, only the two center lanes of the tunnel may exit to assist in an emergency. Then it’s back to the regular unloading.

Adaptability is built in for every crossing and combines with car deck workers’ personal styles. But, in the perfect world, with no emergencies or extraordinary circumstances, if you find yourself in the tunnel’s center two rows forward of the first stairwell, you’re golden. Except when you’re not.