Farmers make hay with ferry policy

Updated January 6

Is hay dangerous? The Steamship Authority believes relegating to open cargo ships is dangerous enough. Local farmers disagree. They find the restrictions on an essential feed for livestock burdensome and are willing to make hay on the situation.

SSA chief executive Robert Davis specifically used the word “dangerous” to describe hay during Wednesday’s harbor council meeting. He spoke about the matter following an investigation by John Cahill, a member of the Tisbury Harbor Council, who said after a Times article was posted online he began to receive inquiries on the hay. Cahill said: “Surprisingly, hay is now a hazardous material. “

Davis responded by saying, “Hay is not dangerous; it’s dangerous.”

During the meeting, Davis confirmed that the hay should be “tarped and put on the freight ships.” And when space is available, it could be placed on a dangerous cargo ferry, he said: “Due to the nature of the material, we want to have it on open deck cargo ships.”

Davis said he thought the “incident” Cahill was referring to was “where they had him in some sort of closed vehicle but it’s still hay, the officer needs[ed] to put them on the cargo ship.
Hay restrictions would have reached a new level this fall, according to Julie Scott of Slough Farm in Katama. Scott, who is also vice-president of Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society, said loads of sheeted hay had previously been relegated to freight boats, but was surprised to learn that hay in trailers would also be banned from ferries like Island Home and Martha’s Vineyard, which has closed vehicle bridges.

News of the trailer, Scott said, didn’t reach her until October, when she was trying to schedule delivery for that month. She said the reservist told her she had just received a note from a colleague describing the new restriction. For 12 years, Scott told The Times, she had been planning hay deliveries to Vineyard. “I had never heard this before,” she said.

In an email to The Times, SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll wrote that the restriction was not new.

“There has been no change in SSA policy regarding hay transport,” he said. “Whether or not it is in a semi-trailer, hay must be transported on an open-top boat for safety, as it is highly flammable. Any instances where hay was taken from a closed vessel would have been taken with the permission and discretion of the master of the vessel.

Cahill said at the port council meeting that he found it “confusing” whether the captain’s discretion to accept a load of hay or not was a policy.

Driscoll responded by saying that “any exceptions” to the policy of prohibiting the loading of hay on covered ferries would be lifted “at the discretion and with the permission of the captain.” He clarified whether the captain’s discretion was granted through policy.

Asked by The Times about the difference in dangerousness between hay loads or truckloads of toilet paper, whiskey, cedar shingles or mattresses, Davis said it could depend on how they were stored.

For example, he said, if butane lighters were packaged commercially, they would be priced differently than bulk butane lighters. Davis did not provide an example of who might haul butane lighters in bulk, or why they would.

SSA Director of Maritime Operations Mark Amundsen said the SSA follows the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code. And contrary to what Driscoll has said previously, Amundsen said captains “do not have the discretion” to go with the vehicle of their choice. “It’s a matter of security,” he said.

Scott provided the Times with multi-year reservations for semi-trailers. In light of this and Scott’s apparent discovery in the fall, The Times asked Davis if the SSA’s hay policy had recently changed or had tightened.

He said no. “It’s a question of whether the officers were aware of what the materials were,” he said. “We have people who will be carrying a horse for example, and they have hay in their trailer with it. You know, that sort of thing. It’s kind of on a case-by-case basis there.

The restriction was baffling for Paul Vaccaro of Paul Vaccaro Hay and Straw, Inc. Vaccaro’s trucks, which depart from Oneida, NY, deliver to Slough Farm on a regular basis. “It’s the one we’ve been buying from for at least 10 years,” Scott said.

Vaccaro said he has been in the hay hauling business for a long time. “I’m 54,” he said, “I’ve been doing it since I was at the knee of a grasshopper. “

Scott said Vaccaro drivers cannot get the rest they need and return off the island and to their next destination when programming is limited to certain boats later in the morning. After one of the last deliveries, the driver had to sleep in his truck at the farm, Scott said.

“By the time we get out of there, we can’t go home,” Vaccaro said. “That makes for a two day trip.

He said not only that he did not understand why hay was considered so dangerous by the ferry line, but also why any early morning boats that could accommodate his hay loads under SSA restrictions are securely booked. months in advance – “boats full of empty garbage trucks,” he said. “What are these trucks that lock them up?” ” He asked.

Vaccaro said the federal government does not consider the hay unsafe and has no difficulty transporting it through New York tunnels, over the George Washington Bridge, across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. or through a similar infrastructure. “I don’t know who thought it was dangerous,” he said.

Scott said his next delivery is scheduled for a 11:05 crossing. Between the journey time to Woods Hole, the two crossings and unloading, the driver will likely be forced to sleep before his return.

“He cannot legally come back the same day,” Vaccaro said. This could add $ 500 to the cost of delivery, he added.

Driscoll basically said truckers are on the honor system when it comes to dangerous goods. “Drivers are required to disclose dangerous cargoes to our staff,” he wrote, “regardless of the size of their business.”

Liz Packer, who owns SBS and sells hay, said her driver recently told her about the change. “He said our hay … can only go on the freight boat, even if it’s in a closed trailer.”

This can leave the driver waiting several hours at Woods Hole to board another boat, she said. “I’m paying him to sit there,” she said.

She said the restrictions are a bit of added frustration. “Do we need another hoop to get over?” This adds to the profitability, ”she said.

Packer said she could understand why the SSA is requiring hay loads to be covered or closed, but was confused about the vessel restrictions and received no notice of them. “I have not received any official correspondence from the SSA,” she said.

Martha’s Vineyard Farm Bureau chairman Dan Martino has said he needs to discuss a number of farming issues with SSA.

“We are in the process of planning a number of meetings with the Steamship Authority,” he said. He described the hay problems as “exactly” the type of problem he will want to discuss with the ferry company.

Updated with additional reports from the Harbor Council and the MV Farm Bureau.

Comments are closed.