Ferry commuters can expect afternoon slowdowns because the ferry, which is 50 years old, was pulled off the route at midday Thursday.

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Ferry commuters can expect afternoon slowdowns because the ferry Kaleetan, which is 50 years old, was pulled off the Seattle-Bremerton route midday Thursday, due to corrosion.

The Tillikum was to be substituted by 3 p.m. into the two-boat corridor, but it holds only 87 cars, compared with144 on Kaleetan, as well as 800 fewer passengers.

Motorists can expect to wait at the docks, but walk-on riders should be able to find space on the first arriving boat, said Ian Sterling, spokesman for Washington State Ferries. However, the Tillikum is also a slower boat, he said.

A routine quarterly inspection found a patch of rust, 3 inches wide, in a steel bulkhead, Sterling said. This isn’t the primary hull that sloshes against Puget Sound, but a secondary bulkhead perpendicular to the bow, that protects the engine room in the event of leaks in the hull.

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Nonetheless, ferry staff immediately pulled out the Kaleetan, in an “abundance of caution,” and a review is under way in collaboration with the Coast Guard, Sterling said.

“We’re arguably the safest ferry system in the world, and this is one of the reasons why,” he said.

The ferry system earlier announced that it carried 24.2 million passengers last year, a 1.3 percent increase since 2015. Among the fastest-changing routes is the Bremerton-Seattle route, which carried 2.1 million walk-on riders, the most since 2004.

This July, Kitsap Transit is scheduled to start a competing, faster Bremerton-Seattle ferry for passengers only.