Steamship counterweights topple in Vineyard Haven

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An accident at the Steamship Authority Vineyard Haven terminal sent a set of transfer bridge counterweights into the water Tuesday morning.

SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll told The Times a truck hit some portion of the bridge while the ferry Governor was at the slip, and the damage broke a cable, sending the counterweights into Vineyard Haven Harbor. Driscoll said no injuries were reported.

The damage occurred just before 11 am on Tuesday, and the transfer bridge was repaired and put back into operation by 8 pm, according to Driscoll. Tuesday at about 5 pm, a large crane was at work with a commercial diver and landside SSA staff to recover the lost set of counterweights. The counterweights were eventually hoisted to land with makeshift rigging. A more substantial coupling was then fastened atop the counterweights, and they were hoisted alongside the transfer bridge, where an SSA employee aloft on the transom of the bridge reconnected the counterweights with bridge cabling. The crane transferred the counterweight load to the bridge just after 6 pm.

In a phone call with The Times, the truck operator, Falmouth resident Robert Maseda, disputes the claim that he hit the bridge, and said rather that an unfastened clamp responsible for securing the cable became loosened further due to the weight of his truck on the bridge. Maseda also contests the SSA’s claim of a broken cable, seeing that the cable looked to remain in one piece, and even with a properly tightened clamp, the cable itself would be nearly impossible to break as described. Additionally, he said the poorly secured fasteners ended up landing on top of his semi truck’s trailer. 

Maseda said he’s a daily traveler with SSA ferries, and has been for nearly 30 years. He said he’s confident that when boarding the Governor via the transfer bridge, he was “perfectly centered.” 

When he inquired as to whether the crew saw what happened, Maseda said the SSA staff relayed that they did not see the accident take place. When he asked to review the video footage of the incident, Maseda said he was not allowed access to the cameras.

When presented with a report to sign, Maseda declined to do so until the SSA reviews the surveillance footage, prompting a rewording of the incident report to read “Vineyard Haven north slip counterweight fell into water while Maseda Trucking truck was on vessel. Review cameras to determine cause.” 

The incident wasn’t the first time counterweights have fallen from a transfer bridge in Vineyard Haven. In May 2020, a set of counterweights fell from Slip 2 at the terminal. The incident temporarily pinned the ferry Martha’s Vineyard to the transfer bridge. SSA director of marine operations Mark Amundsen said the incident happened due to the failure of a “pillow block bearing.” The SSA vigorously refused efforts by The Times to obtain footage of that incident under Massachusetts Public Records Law, claiming such footage was exempt from disclosure under federal law. The Times disagreed. The Times has requested footage of this recent counterweights incident.

7 COMMENTS

  1. So thankful there were no injuries. I happen to agree with The Times about disclosure and video evidence. These kinds of incidents are a matter of public safety, absolutely not something the SSA should be able to obscure from the public. It’s been choppy going for the Authority for a bit too long now.

  2. Maybe after the MBTA crew finishes overhauls the orange line, they should shutdown the SSA and overhaul the SSA ramps

  3. Well done, SSA employees, on the quick repair in the middle of our busiest season. It sounds like a complicated problem was handled efficiently and quickly.

    Yes, it would be great if SSA would be transparent and release the footage. Yes, there are myriad issues to be fixed. But hey, give credit where credit is due- that was a very fast job, marshaling a crane, divers and equipment on this island in the last week of August!

  4. They say the cable broke, then how did the couplers wind up on top of the trailer and why were more substantial couplers required ? Could it be that the work being performed on the ramp not been finished properly ? Looking to pass the blame ?

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