Sen. Miramant’s ferry safety bill receives support at public hearing

Posted: January 28, 2016 | Senator Miramant, Transportation

AUGUSTA — Recent changes made through the Maine State Ferry Service have created a unique problem for many of Maine’s island communities related to the transfer of blood work and medical samples.

Under the new protocol, Maine ferries will not transport patient lab work in the kind of secure “lock box” that was previously used. Instead, islanders are required to spend hours of boat and wait time to travel with the medical samples to mainland hospital, and back again.

“The need for a better system of transport of medical samples for analysis has been identified and the availability of a lock box will suit the needs of the island clinics and should be available on all boats,” said Sen. Dave Miramant of Camden, who sponsored legislation to direct the ferry service to implement the change.

The bill, LD 1468, would require the Maine Department of Transportation to review and adopt policies that were recommended in a 2008 report regarding the transportation of medical samples, ferry crew staffing levels and safety training, customer service and crew stations. It would also strengthen the Maine State Ferry Advisory Board by ensuring that its members include people with demonstrated knowledge of maritime matters, as well as residents from each island community.

Miramant’s bill received a public hearing on Thursday, at which some North Haven residents spoke in support of the measure.

“The original system consisted of a neighborly approach that worked well until the ferry service halted this practice,” said Bill Trevaskis, chairman of the North Haven Board of Selectmen.

Sen. Miramant presented the bill in response to concerns raised around ferry safety and training. As an airplane pilot, Sen. Miramant stressed the importance of training and procedures being second nature to the ferry crews in the event of an emergency.

“We are lucky in Maine that we have a professional, committed and competent group of mariners who have done an outstanding job of operating our ‘Island Highways,’” said Sen. Miramant. “The Maine State Ferry Service has an outstanding safety record and I expect that will continue through this legislation.”

The bill will be scheduled for a work session before the Legislature’s transportation committee in the coming week.