Steamship releases video of 2020 counterweights mishap

Steamship Authority maintenance and terminal personnel work on May 9, 2020 to repair the Slip 1 transfer bridge in Vineyard Haven after a cable snapped and sent a set of counterweights into Vineyard Haven Harbor. — Rich Saltzberg

Two and a half years after a 20,000-pound set of counterweights fell from the Slip 2 transfer bridge in Vineyard Haven, the Steamship Authority released video of the incident to the Martha’s Vineyard Times. The May 9, 2020, footage shows that SSA personnel were on the ramp of the bridge and fairly close to the counterweights when they fell. Nobody was injured.

The SSA described the incident as a “near miss” under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, and blamed it on the failure of a bearing. The SSA refused to provide footage of the incident, claiming it constituted sensitive security information (SSI) and was exempt from disclosure. Following a Times appeal to the state’s supervisor of records, the SSA maintained its position in a 40-page denial letter

In August 2022, another set of counterweights fell from a Vineyard Haven transfer bridge, Slip 1. The SSA blamed a truck. The Times requested security footage that captured that incident, and received a denial. However, following an appeal of the denial, the ferry line had the footage reviewed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TSA found it didn’t contain SSI. The SSA subsequently released the footage, and going forward, has a template for the evaluation of similar requests. In November, The Times re-upped its request for the 2020 footage. After the footage was reviewed by TSA, it too was found not to contain SSI, and the ferry line released it. 

At a joint meeting of the Port Council and SSA board Tuesday, The Times pointed out that in the 2020 and 2022 incidents, counterweights fell near people and a boat respectively, and asked if the ferry line had considered affixing warning signs near where the counterweights were hung. The Times also noted that the 2022 incident sent counterweights into the water near the SSA dinghy dock. 

SSA general manager Robert Davis said his staff has been discussing how to “structure something to keep those weights in place if the cable was to fail, to avoid those situations.”

Davis saw merit in posting something near the dinghy dock: “We should have some additional signage there to keep people away,” he said. 


  1. “Additional signage”? Is he out of his mind?
    How about a proper maintenance schedule for the crumbling infrastructure and fail safe guards so the public is protected, not giving additional signage to read when traversing the ramp.
    And while you are at it, have you reimbursed the MV Times for their legal costs in fighting your delusional interpretation of the law?

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