SSA says Katama was in reverse when struck by Island lobster boat

In this file photo, the freight vessel Katama approaches the Vineyard Haven Steamship Authority terminal.

Steamship Authority (SSA) general manager Wayne Lamson said the freight boat Katama had come to a dead stop and then begun to go astern, when she was struck by a lobster boat out of Vineyard Haven, last week in Vineyard Sound.

There were no injuries or significant damage reported in the collision between Katama, Capt. Sean O’Connor, and the 36-foot Mirage, operated by commercial fisherman Glenn Pachico of Vineyard Haven. The mishap occurred at about 3:45 pm, Wednesday, December 21, about 1.5 miles north of Martha’s Vineyard. The Coast Guard is investigating.

A statement released December 22 by Mr. Lamson described the collision this way:

“At approximately 1525 [3:25 pm, December 21], the M/V Katama was en route to Woods Hole from Vineyard Haven on a westerly course with a flood tide near buoy 26 off Nobska Point. The M/V Katama crew observed a lobster style boat abaft the starboard beam approaching at a high speed headed in a southerly direction down Vineyard Sound.

“As the vessel approached from the starboard side, it appeared they would pass ahead of the Katama. The M/V Katama started to slow down and eventually was all stopped, sounding the danger signal and backing when the lobster boat struck the starboard side. The lobster boat glanced off the Katama and continued down Vineyard Sound.

“At no time did the lobster boat acknowledge any radio traffic from the Katama or stop to ensure the safety of both vessels. There were no injuries and no damage to the M/V Katama.”

In a phone conversation with The Times on December 22, Mr. Lamson said that Mr. O’Connor is “a very experienced captain.”

In keeping with established protocol, all of the Katama’s crew members were immediately alcohol- and drug-tested after the collision, Mr. Lamson said.

Mr. Pachico could not be reached for comment. He did not return a telephone message left with a woman who answered the telephone at his house.

Following a report of the collision, Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England diverted an Air Station Cape Cod MH-60 helicopter that was flying a patrol nearby, to locate and confirm that both vessels were not in distress.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Amber Mitchell, a public affairs officer assigned to the First Coast Guard District, said the Mirage reported minor damage to her waterline and damage to the VHF radio. Both vessels were ultimately found safely moored in Vineyard Haven Harbor. No injuries or pollution were reported.

Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Paul Mangini inspected the Katama and concluded there was no damage done.

The Coast Guard required all personnel involved to submit to a drug test, a requirement following an accident and part of the normal investigative process.

“Drug and alcohol testing following a serious marine incident has been required since 1998,” Officer Mitchell said in an email to The Times. “The main purpose of the testing is to tell Coast Guard investigators if drugs or alcohol were present and may have been a contributing factor in the incident.”According to Mr. Lamson, the Katama crew attempted to contact Mr. Pachico by radio. Asked if Mr. Pachico was required to monitor his VHF radio, Ms. Mitchell said, “In general, any vessel equipped with a VHF marine radiotelephone (whether voluntarily or required to) must maintain a watch on channel 16 whenever the radiotelephone is not being used to communicate.”

Officer Mitchell could provide no information regarding what Mr. Pachico was doing in Vineyard Sound at the time of the collision. She said that information is part of the investigation, and the Coast Guard is not permitted to release information about the intentions of the vessels involved.

“The Coast Guard is actively investigating the incident and does not have findings at this time,” she said.