MV Coho connects Victoria to Port Angeles Washington

The story about the name of the M.V. COHO is a good one. The rumor is the late owner and President of Black Ball Transport, Inc., Mrs. Lois Acheson, selected the name COHO in order to expedite typing the ship’s name on the various freight Bills of Lading. The “coho” is actually the name of a silver salmon with light pink colored flesh found in the U.S. Pacific Northwest of Washington State and along the West Coast of British Columbia.   It is also stocked in the Great Lakes. Traditionally ferry vessels operating in this part of the United States have had original Native American names, i.e., Willapa, Chinook, Chippewa, Illahe, Kitsap, etc.

Captain Alexander Peabody, owner and founder of Puget Sound Navigation Company, known as the Black Ball Line, operated the largest fleet of passenger and freight vessels in the Pacific Northwest. Captain Peabody was a descendent of the Peabody ship-owning family of New York, founders of the famous Black Ball sailing packets operating in trans-Atlantic service during the 1800’s. The company was originally formed in 1816, and the name Black Ball incidentally is the longest standing active shipping company name in the United States.

In 1951 Captain Peabody sold his fleet of passenger-vehicle ferries to the State of Washington, and the vessels have since been managed and operated under the public ownership of the Washington State Ferry System (WSF). Several vessels of the original Black Ball fleet that were built in San Francisco in 1927, the QUINAULT, NISQUALLY, ILLAHE and KLICKITAT, continued in active WSF service until 2007.

In 1952 Captain Peabody sold his last interest in another U.S. subsidiary, Black Ball Freight Lines, to Mr. Robert Acheson and his wife Lois. They continued to operate a freight service to various Puget Sound ports under the name Black Ball Transport, Inc. with the M.V. IROQUOIS, an old passenger steamer converted to a freight only motor vessel. The S.S. IROQUOIS was the original name of the vessel when launched on the Great Lakes in 1901. The IROQUOIS steamed around South America through the Straits of Magellan to Seattle in early 1907, and after her conversion in 1952 the IROQUOIS remained in service until August 1969.

When Robert Acheson decided to expand Black Ball’s freight operations and re-introduce the international passenger and vehicle service between Port Angeles, Washington and Victoria, British Columbia across the Straits of Juan de Fuca, the M.V. COHO was ordered and built at the Puget Sound Bridge and Drydock Company at a cost of U.S. $3 Million. The COHO entered service in December 1959 and to this day has continuously operated year round on the Port Angeles-Victoria route.

The COHO was designed by Philip Spaulding, a highly respected and well known Pacific Northwest naval architect. The motor ferry COHO is the prototype of the first vessels of the British Columbia Provincial Government ferry system, BC Ferries, and vessels of the current Alaska Marine Highway System.

Robert Acheson died in 1963 and his wife Lois served as President of Black Ball until she passed away in August 2004. Mrs. Acheson willed the company to be held in trust by the Oregon State University Foundation with the funds dedicated to establishing The Lois Bates Acheson School of Veterinary Medicine.

In January 2012 Black Ball management bought the company and currently is managed by a team of five owners; Captain John Cox, Chairman and CEO; Ryan Burles, President & COO; David Booth, Senior Vice President Administration and Finance; Ryan Malane, Vice President of Marketing, and Rian Anderson, Vice President Terminals.

The M.V. COHO has been impeccably maintained over the past 54 years and the vessel continues to provide safe, affordable and reliable service between the U.S. and Canada. COHO also continues to fly on her masthead a version of the original Black Ball Line house flag of the Black Ball sailing packets.

In 2004 the M.V. COHO was completely refitted with new main propulsion engines and related control systems to comply with current environmental regulations for stack emissions and to meet the new international emissions standards. Our employees are our most important ambassadors in welcoming the passengers to our terminals and onboard the M.V. COHO   The continued development of a highly motivated and flexible work force and their commitment to The Company’s goals are vital to the growth and profitability of Black Ball Ferry Line.

Black Ball maintains impeccable relations with their three U.S. maritime labor unions, International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots; Marine Engineers Beneficial Association and Inland Boatman’s Union. The M.V. COHO meets all International Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) and U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard regulations. COHO is the last privately owned passenger, freight and vehicle carrying vessel meeting USCG and SOLAS rules operating in international service under the U.S. Flag.

For further information about this remarkable vessel and company view Black Ball Ferry Line’s website at