Ramp accident prompts SSA to reinforce vehicle safety rules


The Steamship Authority has reinforced terminal safety rules in the wake of an accident earlier this month. A boatline employee was driving a car off a ferry docked in Nantucket when the car suddenly shot ahead and struck a trailer truck in the terminal lot.

Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, explained that on the Nantucket the boatline provides vehicle drop-off service that allows travelers to send an unaccompanied car. Mr. Lamson said an employee was driving a Jeep off the ferry when the accelerator got stuck due to mechanical problems.

“It came off the boat, down the ramp, and the operator could not stop the vehicle,” Mr. Lamson said.

The vehicle smashed into a trailer truck in the parking lot. The employee, who was not wearing a seat belt, was sent to a Boston hospital but was not badly injured, Mr. Lamson said.

As a result of the accident and insurance company directives, on Dec. 17 the terminal manager sent a memo to all terminal employees highlighting state law with regard to seat belts and cell phone use.

The memo said that all SSA employees are required to wear seat belts while operating, or as a passenger in, any motor vehicle. SSA employees are also prohibited from using cell phones while operating motor vehicles unless for emergency purposes.

Mr. Rozum also reminded employees that customers are also prohibited from using their cell phones or texting while driving vehicles on or off vessels, and drivers and passengers are required to wear seat belts.

Mr. Lamson told The Times that the SSA has had a longstanding policy when loading a boat of asking drivers not to use cell phones when boarding so that they can pay full attention to crew members’ directions.

He said terminal employees are not going to begin enforcing seat belt laws but would take action when they see someone acting in an unsafe manner — for example a driver allowing a child to sit in his or her lap. “In fact, accidents can happen and air bags deploy,” he said.

Mr. Lamson said the boatline’s insurance company has also asked that people not be allowed on the transfer bridge when cars are loading or unloading. “We will try to address that as well,” Mr. Lamson said. “We are still looking into this accident on Nantucket.”

In other Steamship-related news, the authority board met Tuesday and took action on a number of measures. Acting on the recommendation of parking lot managers, the board created new short-term, off-season parking permits valid from January 1 to May 14 for the Palmer lot in Falmouth and the Yarmouth Street lot in Hyannis. The cost is $225.

The board approved a new transportation contract with the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School District for the new fiscal year that begins on July 1 for discounted school-approved travel. The fixed price under the new contract is $60,000, a $5,000 increase over the current contract.