SSA approves new limits on travel by unaccompanied children

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File photo by Susan Safford

The Steamship Authority (SSA) met Tuesday and agreed to a management recommendation to establish a minimum age of 13 and older for children to travel on the ferries unaccompanied by an adult.

SSA general manager Wayne Lamson presented the policy request at the February board meeting. Management invited public comment on the boatline website and in email to the SSA mailing list.

“After we proposed this change at last month’s meeting, we received a substantial amount of feedback from the public, as well as our insurance carrier, supporting the change,” Mr. Lamson said in a management summary of the Tuesday meeting.

Children 12 and under would only be able to travel with a person 13 years of age or older. The new policy goes into effect immediately, Mr. Lamson told The Times.

The previous SSA policy only required that children under five years of age be accompanied by an adult who was responsible for their care and conduct during the passage.

In a telephone conversation Wednesday morning, Marc Hanover, Vineyard SSA member told The Times that the boatline realized the lack of a clear policy presented a liability issue. In particular, he cited the more than two-hour-long boat ride on the Nantucket run.

Mr. Hanover said the SSA received significant feedback. “We received over 100 responses from different people,” he said. “Most people were supportive of the 12 to 13 and that’s where we are.”

Mr. Hanover said he does not expect the new policy to be a problem for Vineyard students, including those that attend Falmouth Academy. The mix of students includes older children.

In other business Tuesday, Mr. Lamson reported that the SSA is moving closer to launching its new website. The SSA expects to launch the website in April.

The board members also agreed to renew the licensing agreement for the Seastreak, the seasonal high-speed passenger ferry between New Bedford and Martha’s Vineyard. The boatline, which has the option to take over the service, said it would not be financially prudent for the Authority to take over the service.