The “Bomb Boat” is ferry workers’ nickname for the MV Sankaty, which carries fuel tanker trucks. It docks next to the passenger ferry Island Home, which can carry up to 1,000 passengers, according to Stephen Jones, Special Projects Director of Physicians for Civil Defense.
Jones has investigated what he considers unsafe conditions on the Martha’s Vineyard Steamship Authority ferries. His sources are senior ferry workers and personal observation. He has also met with eight members of the Steamship Authority and with county emergency manager Chuck Conior.
A senior ferry worker informed Jones that an accident or sabotage causing an explosion on the “Bomb Boat” would wipe out the entire town. Other ferry workers added that there is no security for the “Bomb Boat.”
The vessels are undermanned, Jones said, and cost-cutting measures cause crews to be fatigued and distracted. Workers only get three to four hours of sleep between shifts, and now that the cooks have been eliminated, they have to fix their own meals. Additionally, Jones found that the life boats on the ferries have been replaced by a faulty system of life rafts on which workers say they are not properly trained.
One worker suggested to Jones that ferries carrying fuel trucks should be allowed only at night, when passenger ferries are not loading or unloading, to decrease risk.
Jones fears that an accident could cause a replay of the worst maritime disaster in history, the 1987 collision of the MV Doña Paz, a ferry carrying passengers between islands in the Philippines, with an oil tanker.
“Third World safety standards on ferries out of Woods Hole and Vineyard Haven, Mass., make them unsafe for travel,” Jones says. He suggests using ferries that originate out of other ports and dock at Oak Bluffs or Edgartown.
Physicians for Civil Defense distributes information to help to save lives in the event of war or other disaster.