Flames, sparks shoot from Katama’s exhaust stack


The Steamship Authority freight ferry Katama shot flames and sparks from one of its exhaust stacks Monday while on the Vineyard route between Woods Hole and Vineyard Haven. Video of the incident captured by a passenger on the vessel showed sparks and ribbons of fire rising from the stack. 

Asked about the incident at Wednesday’s Port Council meeting, SSA director of marine operations Mark Amundsen said similar occurrences happen with some regularity. “It’s not uncommon to get sparks emanating from the exhaust,” Amundsen said. 

Amundsen acknowledged he was aware the incident had been reported, but that he hadn’t seen visuals of it. 

“We have gone out to the vessel’s chief engineer,” Amundsen said. “We’ve gone through the exhaust temperatures on that particular stack, and everything is normal.”

Asked what causes such a phenomenon, Amundsen said, “Generally that would be a result of unburned fuel.” 

Amundsen reiterated that all the exhaust temperatures were found to be normal. “Normally you would see an increase in exhaust temperature for something like that,” he said. “We’ll be reviewing it with the engineering staff.”

SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll told The Times nobody was injured, and the vessel wasn’t delayed.


  1. Nothin to see here folks… It’s just the engine discentegrading.
    Might as well wait until something blows up.
    Let me point one thing out though—electric ferries don’t have exhaust stacks.

  2. Yep, big difference with electric ferries,the sparks remain below decks where no one can see them.

    • you are correct, capt. All the sparks stay right there in between the stator and the rotor safely encased inside the motor housing.
      And no one will ever see oil washed up on our beaches that has leaked out of an electric ferry.
      Nor will anyone ever have to move where they are sitting to avoid the carcinogenic fumes that spew out of the stack.
      Nor will local residents or our highways on the mainland have to have their roads congested by a full sized tanker truck every other day to provide an electric ferry with that carcinogenic, climate changing sludge. The steamship, uses about 1 1/2 million gallons of fuel a year. (2017 numbers). A tanker truck is limited by weight and can carry about 11,000 gallons of diesel.
      And wouldn’t it be nice to be out on the open decks and not have to shout over the noise of the exhaust ?
      And in the long run, they are cheaper than diesel ferries.

      You have voiced some objection to electric ferries here in the past. So, I ask you , Capt.Bob,
      what’s the downside to electric ferries ?
      Please don’t forget to include something factual in your response.

  3. Thankfully, engines that size have individual replaceable power assemblies for each individual cylinder.

  4. And this morning (10/7/21) the SSA tells us in a prosaic email blast that the much-vaunted very expensive Island Home is sidelined for “mechanical difficulties…” Yawn. Just another day at the SSA. Well, at least no raise in prices for passage will be assigned to the Island population.

Comments are closed.