O.B. pier ready by June 15

Bearing failure blamed for counterweight incident in Vineyard Haven.

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Work continues on the pier in Oak Bluffs. SSA officials say the terminal could be ready. week earlier. - Rich Saltzberg

Repairs to the Oak Bluffs terminal pier are expected to be complete ahead of the contractual finish date of June 22, allowing for the facility to be ready a week earlier than expected.

“Right now we’re on schedule for our June 15 completion,” Mark Amundsen, Steamship Authority director of marine operations, told members of the board and port council Wednesday morning.  

“We’ll deliver it back into operations on that date, fully ready to go,” he said.

Amundsen said several pilings have been completed, and several others have been driven, and await cutting and shimming. One piling will require a “concrete jacket” to secure. “We’ve driven that pile unsuccessfully, hitting some sort of obstruction,” he noted. 

When asked about worker safety following an accident that sent a broken piling crashing onto a railing, Amundsen said there were “proper setbacks in place,” meaning people were standing far enough away from piling when it fell to be safe.

Meanwhile, Amundsen told board members and the port council the reason a 20,000-pound set of counterweights fell from the transfer bridge at Slip 2 in Vineyard Haven was due to a small break inside a “pillow block bearing” that couldn’t be seen externally. The bearing was part of a sheave, a spool-like component that guides cables on the transfer bridge. 

“When the bearing assembly failed,” he said, “the sheave froze, and the wire unbraided on the sheave, causing it to part.”

Amundsen said the wire operates over a short length of roughly two feet when the bridge is up and two feet when it is down.

“It’s not a big movement, but it’s an important movement,” he said.

It’s “really difficult” to see the sheave move, because “it doesn’t even rotate even a full revolution,” he said. 

In general, Amundsen said, it’s Important to keep a close watch on the sheaves on SSA transfer bridges. Asked why a makeshift-looking strap clamp had been fastened to one of the counterweight sets on the Slip 2 transfer bridge, he said he wasn’t aware the clamp was there, and couldn’t speak about it. 

Amundsen also explained a recent incident that forced the SSA to cancel two crossings by the Island Home when a gyrocompass failed.

“The gyro is an important aid to navigation, as it stands as a function of input into the ARPA [automatic radar plotting aid] radar,” he said. “In layman’s terms, the ARPA radar is an important aid to navigation itself, because it has everything to do with the collision avoidance system that’s built into that radar. In other words, if a vessel changes track, [it will] signal an alarm on the radar that there’s a collision potential there.”

He said the gyrocompass had annual service in January, but did not explain why it failed. 

Board chair Jim Malkin said he learned from general manager Bob Davis that out of 5,000 ferry trips up to the end of April, there were only eight delays or cancellations for mechanical reasons. “It seems to me that that is a great number,” he said. 

Davis pointed out the figure was for both the Vineyard and Nantucket. 

Malkin said he thought it was important to recognize the efforts that went into reducing mechanical delays. 

“And we won’t give up on those efforts either,” Davis said. 

“Let’s not count all the accolades yet,” Amundsen said. He pointed to the ongoing Quality Management System work, which “is focused on preventative maintenance, particularly on critical systems.”

He said he hopes it will remain a continuing trend “in the right direction.”