Like his father before him, Freddy Fisher is a West Tisbury farmer. When he boarded the MV Martha’s Vineyard Monday with a load of livestock — pigs — bound for market, he was taken aback when an Steamship Authority official told him to back out again because his pigs stank.
After he was backed off, Fisher had to wait an hour and a half to board an open-air freight boat.
He told The Times nothing like that has happened to him in 47 years, and it never happened to his dad.
Steamship Authority spokesman Sean Driscoll confirmed Fisher was booked on the next available freight boat, which has an open car deck. He pointed out the Steamship Authority has policies in place regarding “odorous cargo.”
Pigs are especially sensitive to transportation stress, MV Agricultural Society president Brian Athearn said. “It’s not healthy for the animals to wait in a trailer,” he said, adding the distress from lingering in the trailer can kill the animals.
Despite rules the SSA may have on its website, Athearn said, animals must get across promptly, and the SSA needs to accommodate farmers to make sure that happens.
Athearn said from a corporate point of view, booting a farmer due to odor could be considered understandable. “From a farmer’s point of view, it’s not fine,” he said.
Fisher said the folks waiting to receive his livestock weren’t happy with the delay. “It made the whole day sour,” he said.
In response to a Facebook post by Fisher’s daughter, Prudence, which as of Wednesday had nearly 100 comments, Driscoll posted, “Our operations manager, Mark Rozum, has been in touch with your dad twice so far today, and has accommodated him and the pigs he was taking off-Island.” The post went on to welcome an email exchange.
“FYI: We do have a policy about ‘odorous commodities’ in our customer handbook, which you can find by going to our homepage, then clicking on ‘about’ then ‘policies, forms and information,’” Driscoll wrote.
In an email to The Times, Driscoll shared the relative SSA policies: “3.2 Vehicles Carrying Certain Commodities. Vehicles carrying garbage and/or trash, solid or liquid waste, septage, recyclable materials (including crushed vehicles), livestock (including live bees), agricultural products, fresh fish and/or shellfish (shucked or in the shell), construction demolition materials, or any other odorous or dangerous commodity will not be accepted for shipment unless the customer complies with the following conditions:
- 3.2.1 The shipments must be properly contained and covered so as to prevent spillage/leakage and to minimize odors.
- 3.2.2 Unless otherwise approved by the Authority in advance, the customer must provide a driver who shall be required to remain with the vehicle at all times.
- 3.2.3 The customer shall be responsible for any and all cleanup or washdown charges associated with any accidental spillage or leakage.
- 3.2.4 The customer’s reservations may be restricted or consolidated, at the Authority’s sole discretion, to certain vessels and/or times of travel in order to minimize any inconvenience to the general public or other shippers.
Driscoll pointed out Prudence Fisher posted that her father’s trailer was empty when he came aboard the ferry, when both the SSA and her father confirmed a trailer full of pigs.
Ironically, it was customers of the ferry who were raising a stink months earlier. The sewage stench was reportedly the result of faulty traps and drains. Asked if those odors aboard the Martha’s Vineyard have made staff extra-sensitive to smells, Driscoll said, “That doesn’t play into it at all.”
They responded to a “very strong smell” that could have affected the upper decks, he said, but since the pigs were only aboard briefly, that didn’t happen.
Fisher said he will be taking more livestock runs soon. “If it happens again, we’ll have to get all the farmers together,” he said.