Steamship Authority changes course on hay

The Steamship Authority will now allow the transport of hay on all its vessels. – Rich Saltzberg

The Steamship Authority has loosened its restrictions on hay transportation following an uptick in farmer discontent on the subject. 

Vineyard farmers complained in January that SSA policy on hay had become more restrictive, and compromised a vital resource for the upkeep of livestock. At the time, the SSA claimed its policy remained unchanged.

“There has been no change in SSA policy regarding transportation of hay,” SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll said in January. “Regardless of whether or not it is in a semi, hay must be transported on an open-air vessel as a safety measure, as it is highly flammable. Any instances that hay would have been taken in an enclosed vessel would have been with the permission of and at the discretion of the vessel’s captain.”

That changed with an April 14 memo from SSA Port Captain Charles Monteiro. Capt. Monteiro told all SSA captains that bailed, oil-free hay will be allowed aboard all SSA vessels. For open-deck vessels such as the Katama, hay must be tarped or in a closed vehicle, and upon a temperature check, it must not exceed 130° Fahrenheit. For covered vessels such as the Island Home, it must be in a closed vehicle and must not exceed 14 percent moisture content. Capt. Moneiro’s memo indicates the SSA staff will employ a probe to check hay temperature, though it’s not clear if that probe also measures moisture.

The new executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society, Lauren Lynch, was happy to see the policy change. 

“We were thrilled to hear from the Steamship Authority today on the update of their policy regarding transportation of hay on their vessels,” Lynch wrote Thursday. “With this update, hay is once again allowed on enclosed vessels with some safety precautions in place. The Agricultural Society and M.V. Farm Bureau have worked diligently to push for these clear guidelines and the ability to make reservations on ferries that work within delivery schedules and the parameters to effectively feed their animals. We would like to thank the Steamship Authority for listening to the farmers and still maintaining a safe environment for all travelers.”

Driscoll said the SSA made the change after a review of federal safety regulations.

Jim Malkin, the Vineyard’s SSA representative, mentioned the hay détente at Tuesday’s board meeting.

“I just want to thank the authority for the work they did on the issue of hay to and from Martha’s Vineyard recently,” he said. “The farmers on the Vineyard are very appreciative of the effort.”