Skip Top Navigation Skip to Content

Security and Vehicle Safety at Washington State Ferries


WSF is implementing a U.S. Coast Guard approved security plan effective May 1, 2013. Some changes will be noticeable and some will not. Perhaps the most noticeable and some things that may affect the commuter and one-time traveler alike are the security measures identified by the following signs:


These signs give vehicle drivers and passengers notification that Washington State Patrol teams, or teams of officers, may be walking among vehicles in the holding lanes for the purpose of ensuring illegal explosive materials are not taken aboard. These teams may be accompanied by explosive-detection canines. The dogs are trained to detect explosive materials only. If the dog detects explosive materials, the vehicle will be subject to physical inspection and won't be allowed to board the ferry until the situation is resolved. WSF continues to recommend that vehicles be ticketed and in line 20 minutes in advance of sailing, as vehicles arriving just prior to a sailing could miss the sailing due to the screening process. Federal regulations state that entry into a terminal and boarding of the ferry is deemed valid consent to the screening or inspection of vehicles. Furthermore, those failing to give consent or refusing screening or inspection shall be denied access to the vessel.


To satisfy the requirement to segregate embarking and disembarking passengers, WSF security policies will not allow unchallenged disembarking of passengers once loading has commenced. Signage will be posted on the vessels and terminals near the areas where people would normally disembark. WSF understands that there may be legitimate circumstances where a person may need to disembark shortly after boarding. The customer will need to explain the circumstances to the WSF employee at the boarding plank or on the car deck. The employee will then alert the Captain, who will resolve the situation and make a final determination.  The Captain may ask the passenger to show a valid piece of identification.  If a person would like to assist a customer 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. Note - a person that disembarks, or attempts to disembark the ferry without permission would be considered suspicious and may cause sailing delays as the situation is investigated.

No Unaccompanied Freight Shipments

Washington State Ferries will no longer transport unescorted or unaccompanied freight. This new policy includes blood shipments, medical equipment shipments, medical equipment shipments, architectural drawings, luggage, and prescriptions, all of which have been transported as freight in the past. Some of the new security procedures will continue to be phased-in over the coming months and years. Security hardware such as surveillance cameras, additional fences, lighting, and access controls will be added as time and resources allow.

What Are Restricted/Prohibited Items

Propane Tanks

Any number of full or empty tanks of propane may be transported in a vehicle, provided that the total weight does not exceed one hundred pounds (water weight equivalent). When evaluating the allowable limits, all tanks shall be considered full. To calculate the quantity of cylinders allowed aboard the vessel, use the following calculation: Water weighs approximately 8.4 pounds per gallon. A 5 gallon cylinder, 12.5" D x 17" H, would weigh approximately 42 pounds (water weight value). With this calculation, a vehicle could transport two 5 gallon propane cylinders and not exceed the 100 pound limit.

New propane tanks of any size, which have never been filled with propane, may be transported in any quantity, provided that the valves are closed and the shipper has a sales receipt proving the tanks are new. Used propane tanks of any size may be transported, provided that the shipper has documentation proving the tanks have been purged and rendered inert. Fixed propane tanks that are permanently installed on the frame or chassis of vehicles, including recreational vehicles and trailers, are not included within the allowable limit of portable propane tanks.

In cases where vehicles are carrying both propane tanks and gasoline containers, the total aggregate amount of both fuels shall not exceed 12 gallons (water capacity).

Example: A vehicle transporting one 5 gallon portable propane tank is limited to one 6 gallon approved gasoline container.

Pressurized Tanks

(Oxygen) must be capped.

Camp Stoves or Lantern Fuel

Camp stove or lantern fuel may be transported, subject to the same conditions and limits as gasoline. A condition to gasoline transport:  "gasoline containers must be transported in a vehicle."

Liquid Oxygen

The carriage of liquefied oxygen on vessels is regulated under 49 Code of Federal Regulations parts 100 to 199 (49 CFR 100-199). The carriage of liquefied oxygen is only authorized for transport on WSF vessels transiting to and from Vashon Island (Point Defiance to Tahlequah, Fauntleroy to Vashon, and Southworth to Vashon). Any vehicle presenting at a terminal other than those listed above for transportation on a WSF vessel will be refused passage. This includes the transport of empty tanks used to carry liquefied oxygen.

Gas Cans

Washington State Ferries allows customers to bring portable gasoline containers aboard its vessels, subject to the specific rules and restrictions described in this procedure. To ensure compliance with regulatory agencies and reduce the risk of fire and explosion resulting from ignition, gasoline must be stored in containers that are UL-listed or USCG approved. Under an exemption issued by the Federal Department of Transportation, WSF can allow customers to carry gasoline  in their vehicles only  and subject to the following rules and restrictions:

  • The containers must be in good condition and must be UL-listed or US Coast Guard approved.
  • Customers may carry no more than 2 6-gallon containers of gasoline in portable containers. When evaluating the allowable limits, all tanks shall be considered full.
  • The maximum capacity for each container can be no more than 6 gallons.
  • Gasoline containers must be transported in a vehicle.
  • Container must be red in color and have a non-spill spout.
  • "Quick pour" containers are not allowed on WSF vessels. These containers are not designed for transport, but rather onsite dispensing of fuel products. This type of container is not authorized onboard WSF vessels if it currently holds, or previously held any fuel products. Please see example below:

    Quick Pour Gas Can

NOTE: Camp stove or lantern fuel also may be transported, subject to the same rules and restrictions.

If vehicles are carrying gasoline cans and propane, they will only be able to transport a maximum of one BBQ grill-type tank in combination with up to a maximum of 6 gallons of gasoline.

Vehicles towing trailers are treated as a single vehicle and are subject to the same limitations. For example, a vehicle towing a trailer carrying a boat is limited to 12 gallons of gasoline.

Terminal sellers shall deny passage to customers transporting more than 12 gallons of gasoline, more than the allowed propane limit, or more than the limit for the combined total of both fuels.


  • Hazardous Materials (Title 49 CFR Parts 170-180)
  • Explosives or Incendiary Devices (Title 33 CFR, Part 6)
  • Chemical, Biological or Radiological Agents or Devices (Title 33 CFR, Part 6)
  • Unlawful or Illegally Possessed Firearms (9.41 RCW)
  • Illegal Fireworks (70.77 RCW)
  • Acetylene Tanks

In an effort to educate our customers regarding prohibited materials, WSF intends to post these signs at terminals and holding areas.


As a customer of Washington State Ferries, you have an important role to play in preventing a terrorist act from occurring on WSF terminals and ferries. Ferry customers represent the best "eyes and ears" for detecting something out of the ordinary, or "just not right." Here are a few suggestions of what customers can do to make WSF as secure as possible:

  • 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.
  • Be conscientious to not leave any personal belongings unattended even for a few minutes.
  • Be aware of what items are prohibited from carriage on the ferries, and ensure they are not in your vehicle, or a part of your carry-on items.
  • Follow security-related instructions given to you by WSF employees or Washington State Patrol personnel.
  • Understand the impacts of leaving behind a bicycle or vehicle. Any of these items can trigger a significant response related to security or missing person and impact schedules. WAC 468-300-040 allows WSF to impose penalty charges for the owner of vehicles without drivers.
  • Unattended baggage or packages are those that cannot readily be identified as belonging to a particular passenger. Those items might be observed on an unoccupied bench or seat, next to a vending machine, in a bathroom, in the galley, or in a shelter deck or solarium. Unattended, unclaimed baggage that is not deemed to be a suspicious package shall be treated as "lost and found" and removed from the vessel and/or terminal.

Can I Carry Firearms Aboard the Ferries?

WSF follows Revised Code of Washington (RCW 9.41.050) for carrying firearms.

  1. (a) Except in the person's place of abode or fixed place of business, a person shall not carry a pistol concealed on his or her person without a license to carry a concealed pistol.
    (b) Every licensee shall have his or her concealed pistol license in his or her immediate possession at all times that he or she is required by this section to have a concealed pistol license and shall display the same upon demand to any police officer or to any other person when and if required by law to do so. Any violation of this subsection (1)(b) shall be a class 1 civil infraction under chapter 7.80 RCW and shall be punished accordingly pursuant to chapter 7.80 RCW and the infraction rules for courts of limited jurisdiction.
  2. (a) A person shall not carry or place a loaded pistol in any vehicle unless the person has a license to carry a concealed pistol and: (i) The pistol is on the licensee's person, (ii) the licensee is within the vehicle at all times that the pistol is there, or (iii) the licensee is away from the vehicle and the pistol is locked within the vehicle and concealed from view from outside the vehicle. 
    (b) A violation of this subsection is a misdemeanor.
  3. (a) A person at least eighteen years of age who is in possession of an unloaded pistol shall not leave the unloaded pistol in a vehicle unless the unloaded pistol is locked within the vehicle and concealed from view from outside the vehicle. 
    (b) A violation of this subsection is a misdemeanor.


What are Maritime Security (MARSEC) Levels?

The security procedures you will encounter are predicated on the level of threat towards the maritime industry in general or the ferry system in particular.

At Maritime Security (MARSEC):

Level 1 , which represents normal day-to-day security, only select measures contained in the ferry system security plan will be implemented. Signs are posted regarding the current maritime security level is in effect.

At higher MARSEC levels , more security procedures will apply. For example, at times of heightened security, the new regulations require more vehicle screening. Washington State Patrol troopers may need to supplement the canine screening with physical inspections of enclosed compartment areas to meet the vehicle screening requirements. A typical physical screening will include a visual inspection by a trooper of enclosed compartment areas such as a trailer, canopy, passenger or engine areas.

For additional information, please contact WSF Information at 206.464.6400; 888.808.7977, or email

Vehicle Safety and Driver Responsibilities
Anyone driving aboard a ferry should be aware of potentially unsafe conditions and make every effort to ensure 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 RCW 46.61 "Rules of the Road" regarding your legal responsibilities.