A Steamship Authority freight ferry broke loose from the Woods Hole terminal last week and drifted into the neighboring Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution dock.

The Sankaty came free around 5 p.m. on July 27. The cause of the accident remained unknown this week and Steamship chief operating officer Mark Higgins said at Tuesday’s port council meeting that the ferry line was conducting a thorough investigation into the incident.

There were no injuries or damage to either the vessel or the research institute’s dock, according to officials. The Sankaty was tied up for the day and was not in service at the time, meaning there were no crew, vehicles or passengers aboard the vessel.

“We are fortunate that there was no loss of life, injuries, damage to the vessel [or] WHOI property or any environmental impact,” Mr. Higgins said Tuesday.

“We take this incident with the utmost seriousness as an organization [and] we realize that an incident such as this is unacceptable and should not take place,” he said.

The Sankaty’s overnight moorings include two lines from each end of the vessel, two cables for the transfer bridge and a cable connecting the ferry to shore power, Mr. Higgins told the port council.

At the time of Thursday’s accident, he said, all the connections were in place except for one of the two stern lines.
None of the lines had parted, Mr. Higgins added.

General manager Robert Davis then recommended suspending the discussion of possible causes until the investigation is completed.

“At this point it would be a little premature to be making any determination,” Mr. Davis said.

Also Tuesday, the port council heard a request from Tisbury officials to either divert or delay the 8:30 p.m. departure from Oak Bluffs to Woods Hole for the three nights of the Beach Road Weekend music festival later this month.

Tisbury’s select board last week voted in favor of requesting the ferry move to Vineyard Haven at the request of the town police and fire chiefs, to help safely disperse the crowds from off-Island at the end of the festival each day.

But port council chair Joe Sollitto, who represents Oak Bluffs, said merchants in his town oppose losing the business that arrives on the last round-trip ferry of the day.

“They’re against having the boat not coming in for three nights in a row,” Mr. Sollitto said.

“Last year, we delayed it for 15 minutes and I’m sure they will go along with it this year, [and] that would be the recommendation I’ll be making to the select board,” he said.

The Steamship Authority board of governors will take up the diversion-or-delay request at their next meeting, August 15 at 1 p.m. at the Hyannis terminal.