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Ferry stranding blamed on malfunctioning fuel pump, officials say

An oil transfer pump was not fueling a ferry properly when the vessel became stranded off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard for five hours on Saturday night with 72 passengers onboard, officials said Monday.

The Steamship Authority said in a statement that the main fuel oil transfer pump was not generating enough pressure to transfer fuel to the vessel, causing it to lose power just 15 minutes after departing its port at Vineyard Haven at 8:30 p.m. on its way to Woods Hole. In addition to the passengers, 11 crew members and three food concession employees were on board.

In a telephone interview with the Globe on Sunday afternoon, general manager Robert Davis said the ferry returned to service on March 7 after an $18 million refurbishment that included replacing the ship’s two service generators and adding a third.

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The incident was the second interruption in service in a matter of days. Another ferry ran aground on a sand bar on its way to Vineyard Haven on Thursday night due to operational issues with the vessel, Davis told the Globe on Sunday.

The Steamship Authority said it tested the ferry on Sunday afternoon, as it remained out of service with a back-up fuel transfer pump and had it inspected by the Coast Guard. The ferry was cleared to resume regularly scheduled service on Monday morning.

A new control mechanism was installed in Woods Hole on Sunday night to resolve the issue, according to the statement.

The authority said the ferry was still undergoing tests, but was expected to be fully operational on Monday with possible delays.


Laney Ruckstuhl can be reached at laney.ruckstuhl@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laneyruckstuhl. Globe correspondent Lucas Phillips contributed to the reporting of this story.