At a virtual Port Council meeting on Oct. 6, Oak Bluffs Port Council member Joe Sollitto asked what infrastructure improvements could be done to reduce diversions from Oak Bluffs. Specifically, Sollitto asked Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis what could be done to beef up or replace the transfer bridge at the Oak Bluffs terminal, to keep ferries from being rerouted to Vineyard Haven: “Could there be extra cables put on there, so that if one cable snaps, it would still be safe for cars to come on and off, or passengers to come on and off?”
Davis said there were more than cable issues at play: “The Katama or Sankaty, if they’re running that route, they need to not lay up against the fendering system in order for them to be squared up with the transfer bridge, because the beam of those vessels is different than the Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. So that’s why we tend to see more diversions of those vessels than we do of the Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.”
Davis said ocean swells have also created problems: “We did have an incident earlier in which — I believe it was the Martha’s Vineyard — was at the dock, and a passing vessel caused enough of a wake that it caused the passenger gangway to dislodge from the vessel. Thankfully there was no one on it at the time. It was a matter of seconds that that happened.”
Davis added that sometimes even though a ferry is able to dock and avoid using the gangway, there’s reluctance to have passengers cross over the transfer bridge.
“We can look at the cabling system,” Davis said. “We did have a couple issues with that where those wakes have caused those cables in the past to snap.”
He said that was “obviously” something the SSA wants to “minimize.”
Davis also said the SSA efforts in general to lessen the number of diversions is ongoing. “Speaking with the captains, they don’t like to divert either,” Davis said.
Sollitto asked “who makes the call” about diverting a vessel.
“Well, the captains, then they’ll talk with the terminal agent to get a condition report before they head over,” Davis said.
The Oak Bluffs terminal will close for the season on Oct. 18, according to SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll.