Ferry sprinklers douse car deck with saltwater

SSA says chief engineer was pressurizing system.

The MV Martha’s Vineyard suffered a fire that was detailed in the recently released HMS Consulting report.

Updated at 12:30 pm

The car deck sprinkler system on the MV Martha’s Vineyard began leaking after it left Woods Hole at 9:30 am Wednesday, a passenger told The Times.

The pipes continued to leak, and then the deck was showered for approximately five minutes by all the sprinklers. The passenger reported the ferry arrived in Oak Bluffs 20 minutes late, and no explanation was given to the passengers.

Sean Gonsalves, a spokesman for the SSA, told The Times that the chief engineer was pressurizing the system, and that’s what caused the temporary leak. After he was done, it drained the lines, he said.

The car deck sprinklers aren’t automatic. “Somebody had to turn on a pump,” U.S. Coast Guard assistant inspection chief Carl Moberg said. Like all Steamship Authority car deck sprinkler systems, Moberg said, the Martha’s Vineyard sprinkler system expels saltwater. Moberg was informed by the port captain that a test was being conducted on the pump earlier that morning, which may have revealed a leak in a zone 4 valve. He surmised running the sprinklers was part of a troubleshooting process, but questioned its timing.

A video from the passenger shows the cars covered in water and puddles on the freight deck floor.

The Martha’s Vineyard has been beset by glitches since undergoing a more than $18 million overhaul at Senesco Marine in North Kingstown, R.I.

On St. Patrick’s Day, the ferry lost power off East Chop during its last run of the night. Passengers were stranded on the ferry for five hours until it finally returned to Vineyard Haven in the early morning hours.

The problems with the Martha’s Vineyard and the MV Woods Hole, including missing more than 500 trips in the first four months of the year because of mechanical breakdowns, are what prompted a call for a top-to-bottom review of the ferry service. On Tuesday, the board chose a Seattle-based consultant to do that review.

Updated to include information from SSA and Coast Guard – Ed.