Everything is connected to everything else. Thus the moves in the 1980s to deregulate the trucking industry have wound up, 30 years later, costing the Steamship Authority and its employees millions of dollars.

It’s a convoluted series of events, traced by the SSA in a recent statement explaining why the cost of providing retirement benefits to its employees had just gone up by around $500,000 a year.

For decades, the boat line explained, it had contributed on behalf of around 140 terminal employees and 26 maintenance employees to the New England Teamsters and Trucking Industry Pension Fund. As of last year, those contributions amounted to about $1.4 million per year.

But when the authority began its most recent round of collective bargaining with the teamsters, it learned the pension fund was underfunded by about 50 per cent.

The shortfall had occurred because a number of other participating employers had gone out of business, “due to the deregulation of the trucking industry,” leaving an obligation to pay former employees, but insufficient contributions to do it.

As a result the fund had been certified as being in a “critical” state, and was legally required to adopt measures to increase its funding level to 65 per cent over 10 years.

“As required by the Pension Protection Act, the pension fund adopted a rehabilitation plan that froze all rates of retirement benefit accruals for all of its participating employees . . . and required contribution rate increases from all of its participating employers,” the statement said

“The rate increases were enormous — 10 per cent per year for the first five years and eight per cent per year for the next five years . . ..”

All told, over 10 years that would have equated to a 137 per cent rise. By 2019, the SSA would have been paying some $3 million a year, while its employee pensions would have remained frozen at 2005 levels.

So the SSA sought to get out of the fund. However, that would have required paying a withdrawal liability of close to $2 million a year over 20 years.

“And that is in addition to what it would have cost us to provide for a reasonable substitute retirement benefit for our employees,” the SSA said.

It would have been even more costly to put off withdrawal. A delay of 10 years would have lifted the cost from $38.5 to $90 million.

After negotiation, a compromise was reached, under which the SSA will withdraw from the pension fund’s previous plan — and pay $1 million a year in withdrawal liability — and enter a new plan with the same fund, paying some $1.2 million in contributions.

The new plan would offer somewhat lower benefit accrual to the employees, and the contributions by the authority would not increase, meaning that eventually the SSA would have to put less in, and employees would get less out.

However, the initial cost would be around $500,000 extra per year.

The authority’s statement described its action in mixed metaphorical terms, saying it had “stopped the hemorrhaging instead of continuing to kick the can down the road.

“By 2015, only four years from now, we will be paying less in combined contributions and withdrawal liability payments per year than we would have been paying in contributions alone if we had stayed with the original plan.

“By 2018, we will break even entirely and, after that we will continue to pay less each and every year than if we had stayed in the pension fund’s original plan or if we had withdrawn from the pension fund and started our own retirement plan for our employees.”

Until then, said SSA general manager Wayne Lamson, it would mean less money to spend on other things. But he did not signal any fare increase.

In other developments, the SSA has launched a new Web site which will allow people to check on ferry arrivals and departures, cancellations and alerts, check parking information and get directions to its parking lots and terminals, via their smart phones.

Customers now can log on via their iPhone, Android or Blackberry to