TSAWWASSEN, British Columbia (AP) _ A ferry collided with a Japanese coal ship in thick fog today, injuring 19 people on the ferry, authorities said.

The ferry Queen of Alberni collided with the Shinwa Maru near the ferry terminal just north of the U.S.-Canadian border, said Canadian Coast Guard Officer Richard Hendrickson.

Seventeen people were taken to nearby Delta Hospital, where one was undergoing surgery for a head injury, a hospital spokesman said. Two other injured people were taken to hospitals in suburban Richmond and Vancouver.

Visibility was reduced by dense fog when the ferry carrying about 250 passengers began its run to Nanaimo.

''The poor gentleman behind us flew out of his chair and got thrown right into the post, which caved the whole side of his head in,'' said passenger Dave Tretick of Nanaimo.

The freighter hit the right front of the ferry and continued past, peeling the side of the ferry like a can-opener, he said.

Coast guard Capt. Graham Newbold said a coast guard cutter and Hovercraft, along with an aircraft and helicopter, were sent to the crash scene.

The collision came five weeks after another British Columbia Ferry Corp. vessel and a new high-speed catamaran ferry collided on the route between Vancouver Island and the Vancouver area. No one was seriously injured.