Steamship Authority talk on HMS report set for March 5

MV Gay Head will go to Senesco for repairs; board welcomes Falmouth rep Kathryn Wilson.


Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis announced Tuesday that a presentation on the HMS Consulting report will be held at 6 pm on March 5 at the Performing Arts Center in Oak Bluffs. HMS president John Sainsbury will guide the presentation, and field questions from the public afterward. The presentation session will fall in a month that a year earlier saw the Steamship Authority suffer wholesale mechanical glitches, cancellations, and public relations challenges that continued throughout that spring. Marc Hanover, the Vineyard’s representative to the SSA board, vowed he would make sure Vineyarders got a presentation on home turf after the HMS report was first publicly presented at Falmouth High School in December, to the frustration of many Islanders who couldn’t make the journey.

Despite nearly all the spring 2018 service problems occuring on the Vineyard –Woods Hole route, Nantucket is slated to get a presentation before Martha’s Vineyard. The Nantucket HMS presentation will be 5:30 pm on March 4 in the Nantucket High School cafeteria. SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll told The Times he is conscious of the optics of the scheduling, but that the limited availability of the Performing Arts Center made scheduling the Vineyard presentation first infeasible.

The board welcomed new Falmouth board representative Kathryn Wilson to her first meeting Tuesday. Wilson replaced Elizabeth Gladfelter, who was not reappointed by Falmouth selectmen. Wilson, an attorney at the firm Mackey and Foster, wasted no time cross-examining Davis on the overhaul of the MV Gay Head, which is slated to undergo a routine overhaul at Senesco Marine. It was Senesco Marine that executed the $18 million midlife refurbishment of the MV Martha’s Vineyard last year. Upon its return from the shipyard, the Martha’s Vineyard racked up a string of mechanical failures, including two total power failures, or “blackouts,” as the HMS report termed them. The mechanical problems sent the ferry in and out of service alongside the MV Island Home and the MV Woods Hole, which also underwent work at the Rhode Island shipyard. The SSA was able to get some warranty repairs from Senesco, but ultimately wound up paying Senesco $950,000 as part of a settlement both parties declined to comment on.
The contract for the Gay Head amounts to $737,488, with work slated during July and August.

Wilson asked what kind of safeguards the contract offered: “Is there any sort of provision for penalty for late delivery or late completion on any of the … threshold timeframes?” she asked.

“I don’t believe we have any liquidated damages provisions in this contract,” Davis said. He noted per recommendations made in the HMS report, there will be a “an initial kickoff meeting with the yard,” and a requirement that Senesco provide a “Microsoft Project schedule of activities.” Additionally, he said, the SSA will receive “weekly updates.”

“So they have informational obligations, but no sort of penalty for any delays?” Wilson asked.

“Right,” Davis said.

“I’m pleased to see that Senesco bid on this,” Hanover said, referring to the past positive working relationship the Authority had with the shipyard. “I hope we can continue doing as well as we did before.”

Carl Walker, SSA director of engineering and maintenance, described the overhaul of the Gay Head as a “shave and a haircut,” small-scale compared to a major overhaul.

“We had many years of good service from Senesco,” he said. “Obviously the Martha’s Vineyard was a unique circumstance in that relationship, and I’m looking forward to regaining trust between both parties and moving forward.”

The board voted 4-0 to approve the contract. New Bedford member Moira Tierney was absent from the meeting.