Updated May 13
A terminal incident over the weekend “could have caused serious injury but did not,” according to Steamship Authority spokesman Sean Driscoll.
A Slip 2 transfer bridge cable at the Steamship Authority’s Vineyard Haven terminal snapped Saturday morning. The MV Martha’s Vineyard was at the bridge at the time of the incident and became stuck there. Based on information provided by the SSA, a frozen sheave is suspected of causing the incident, according to Carolyn Assa, spokesperson for the Massachusetts State Building Inspector’s Office. Following the cable break, vehicles and passengers waiting to board the ferry were delayed until the MV Katama, which was docked in reserve at Slip 1, could be brought into service. A Steamship Authority repair crew arrived on scene sometime before noon. Workers rigged a chain and pulley to the transfer bridge and by 12:40 pm, the Martha’s Vineyard was freed. It then motored into Slip 1.
On Monday, the MV Katama was back in reserve, docked at Slip 2, and repair work continued on the transfer bridge.
“Today maintenance crews are securing the other counterweight on the transfer bridge and examining the four sheaves on the transfer bridge to determine if they need to be repaired or simply reset,” Driscoll emailed at the time. ”New cables will be installed on both sides of the bridge.
Driscoll clarified that the “sheaves” are the slotted wheels cables run through, such as on pulleys.
The SSA is already running a reduced schedule and with the Martha’s Vineyard unable to unload, it caused a backup. The freight ferry MV Katama, which was being held in reserve in Slip 1, warmed up its engines to fill in for the Martha’s Vineyard.
At 9:49 am Saturday, Driscoll issued a statement: “This morning, a transfer bridge cable failed at approximately 7:45 am. while the MV Martha’s Vineyard was docked in the southernmost slip in Vineyard Haven. No injuries were reported, but the transfer bridge is currently not operational and the vessel will be unable to leave the slip until the transfer bridge is secured. The crew from the M/V Martha’s Vineyard will run the MV Katama in the interim and should leave Vineyard Haven by 9:30 am. Once the transfer bridge is secured, the MV Martha’s Vineyard will resume service. An extra crew is being assembled to run service with the MV Katama to help alleviate traffic backlogs as a result of this incident. Customers should expect delays this morning as a result. We thank customers for their patience.”
The bridge is designed with a suspended block of counterweights on either side of its ramp.
Driscoll noted the weight that was attached to the broken cable is no longer on the transfer bridge but “in the water and will have to be retrieved by divers.”
Wednesday morning the SSA had the counterweights hoisted from Vineyard Haven Harbor with a crane.
Terminal manager Leigh Cormie said the fallen counterweights weighed 20,000 pounds. Asked if the Martha’s Vineyard allided with the transfer bridge, Cormie said it didn’t, that the cable holding the counterweight simply broke. He said he found it perplexing because the cable was relatively new. Driscoll later confirmed a frozen sheave is thought to have caused the break.
Asked if the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or the state building inspector’s office were notified of the incident, Driscoll replied, “We are gathering more information on the incident to determine what notifications are necessary.”
Driscoll later wrote, “The incident is categorized as a “near miss” so is not required to be reported to OSHA. Nonetheless, after we complete our investigation, we will use what was learned as the basis to improve our policies, procedures and training as a part of our implementation of our new Safety Quality Management System.”
“OSHA strongly encourages employers to investigate all incidents in which a worker was hurt, as well as close calls (sometimes called “near misses”), in which a worker might have been hurt if the circumstances had been slightly different,” the administration’s website states. No inspection will occur and no permit will be required to repair the transfer bridge, according to Assa, as the work is considered maintenance.
In an email Tuesday night, Driscoll noted materials are on order for the transfer bridge and repair work is not expected to be completed until “mid to late next week.”
Updated with new information from the SSA. -ed.