Updated Dec. 14
A minivan that straddled a gap between a transfer bridge and a ferry wasn’t ever in danger of falling, the Steamship Authority’s board and port council were told Monday.
At a special meeting held at Cape Cod Community College Monday, SSA director of marine
operations Mark Amundsen said the gap that opened underneath a minivan on Nov. 27 was “approximately less than a foot.” That incident alarmed Philadelphia residents Jim and Marie Logue. Despite such a “terrifying” experience, as Marie Logue put it, both she and her husband previously stressed to The Times they thought the crew did an exemplary job of managing the emergency.
“So at no point was there any danger of a vehicle going into the water?” Vineyard port council member John Cahill asked.
“No, sir,” Amundsen said.
Amundsen said there had been a cable break the night before the minivan incident, but he heavily downplayed any connection between that cable break and the separation of the ferry Island Home from the Slip 2 transfer bridge on Nov. 27. Amundsen said the cables help line up ferries to the bridge, but do not secure ferries to the bridge. That job, he said, is done by hawser lines that are attached to bollards at the terminal. On Nov. 27, Amundsen said a hawser line wasn’t tight enough, and that allowed for the separation. Upon review, he said an additional bollard will be installed to help secure ferries in the slip.
Somehow the Island Home was used to position the bridge with the snapped cable.
“We used the vessel to position the bridge rather than the cable,” Amundsen said. “In that case we deemed — the captain deemed it was safe to operate so …”
Amundsen went on to say, “The bridge was never broken, just to clarify that. The bridge was in proper position as maneuvered by the vessel.”
Amundsen said the night before, Nov. 26, “It’s unknown what caused the parting of that cable.”
When asked during a telephone conversation with The Times after the meeting if the SSA let vehicles cross the bridge with its snapped cable because it was deemed safe to do so, SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll said, “Yes.”
Though it wasn’t entirely clear from what Amundsen said, it appeared that the wake from the Katama helped move the Island Home away from the transfer bridge. Driscoll said this was the case.
The board and the port council voted unanimously to authorize SSA general manager Robert Davis to seek a continuance of a state permit that would allow for longer use of the temporary terminal building in Woods Hole. Davis would do this through an appeal to a three-person state panel. The goal is to get permission to keep using the temporary terminal building until the new terminal building is finished and usable. A previous appeal allowed the SSA to build the temporary building for use over four years. Davis told the board and port council a letter was received from a state building inspector on Dec. 7. The letter, Davis said, told the SSA the state would halt the continued use of the temporary terminal building in Woods Hole.
The SSA was given 45 days to appeal the decision.
Davis noted the previous state building inspector denial pointed out the temporary terminal building was at an elevation of 9.5 feet, when flood zone requirements called for a 13-foot elevation. Davis also said openings in the building were found to be not to code.
Informal discussions have revealed an appeal to continue using the building will likely succeed so long as the design and budget of the new terminal remain on track.
Jim Malkin, the Vineyard’s representative on the board, took the opportunity to point out that there isn’t a path forward to use the temporary building as a permanent structure, as many Woods Hole neighbors might wish.
“I think it’s important for people to realize that there are a large number of folks who are neighbors who feel that we should continue to use the existing building,” Malkin said. “According to the state, we cannot continue to use that building.”
The board voted unanimously to award to the “lowest eligible and responsible bidder,” as Davis put it, a drydock and overhaul of the ferry Nantucket. Per the 2022 operating budget, the work was estimated at $1.3 million. Davis said the request was for “preauthorization,” which is a practice “we try to stay away from.” Davis asked for the preauthorization because the bid opening is scheduled for Dec. 14, but the board met on Dec. 13 at a rescheduled meeting.
Bids will now be opened on Dec. 21, he said. Without preauthorization, Davis said, another meeting would need to be scheduled to authorize the award.
Per a staff report, the Nantucket is slated “to undergo a required U.S. Coast Guard hull exam, rudder, propeller, and shaft maintenance, coating maintenance on underwater and superstructure areas, structural steel renewal of hull and main deck areas, bow thruster overhaul, bow and stern door overhauls, fire detection installation, fuel oil purifier installation, as well as overhaul of the anchor windlass.”
In other business, New Bedford representative Moira Tierney became the board’s new chair. The meeting marked the final appearance of Falmouth representative Kathryn Wilson, who had been chair. Wilson has opted to step down from the board. The meeting also saw John Cahill voted in as chair of the port council. Cahill replaced New Bedford port council member Ed Anthes-Washburn.
Updated with more details from the meeting -Ed.