SSA moves forward with plans for a new ferry, Woods Hole terminal

SSA moves forward with plans for a new ferry, Woods Hole terminal

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The Steamship Authority hopes to have a new freight vessel in service within two years.

The new vessel is designed to carry 10 tractor trailer trucks and 385 passengers. — Illustration by Elliott Bay Desi

The Steamship Authority (SSA) is finalizing design plans for a new freight ferry intended to take some of the pressure off larger boats carrying freight and passengers to and from the Islands.

The SSA board is also engaged in the design process for a new terminal in Woods Hole that has raised the hackles of some residents the small port community who object to its proposed size and location.

Marc Hanover, Vineyard SSA member, estimates it will be two years before the launch of the new ferry. He made the rounds of local government boards last week to update town leaders on plans for the new boat, as well as plans for the new terminal.

Preliminary plans for the new freight vessel show a 235-foot boat capable of carrying 10 fully loaded tractor trailer trucks, or 55 cars, as well as 385 passengers.

The aft part of the freight deck is open, a feature which will save costs.
The aft part of the freight deck is open, a feature which will save costs.

Cost estimates of the new boat vary widely, depending on options and contingencies, but Mr. Hanover said the price tag is beginning to firm up. “I think the boat is going to come in at about $35 million,” he said in a meeting with Dukes County Commissioners at their April 9 meeting. “The Steamship Authority has ample replacement funds. This should not affect fares.”

Designed by the Seattle firm Elliott Bay Design Group, the vessel features a drive on, drive off freight deck, covered on the forward part of the ship, but open aft.

Mr. Hanover said new design includes many features to save fuel and operating costs.

“It will use 9.5 gallons of fuel per mile, with lower emissions,” he said. “We can crew it with a freight boat crew; that’s $200,000 savings per year. We expect very few cancellations. It has a high profile, but it is also lightweight.”

County commissioner Melinda Loberg, a member of the Tisbury harbor advisory committee and candidate for selectman, questioned the “single-ended” design. Tisbury waterway regulations require all new ferries longer than 150 feet to be “double-ended,” to avoid the need to turn around in the busy harbor.

In a phone interview with The Times Sunday, Mr. Hanover said a double-ended design would add $2 million to the cost of the boat. While he promised to work with Tisbury on the design, he said it is unclear whether the local waterway regulation is binding on the Steamship Authority, an autonomous agency created by the Massachusetts state legislature. He said the process of gathering recommendations from local communities will be different than it was when the Island Home was in its design phase.

“The Island Home was a fiasco, I felt,” Mr. Hanover said. “The process was painful. We’ve already got a predetermined design. This is what the captains want, this is what the management wants, we’ll ask if there are any other considerations.”

He said the design plans will not be set until the Steamship Authority board votes on the final design.

Preliminary plans for a new terminal include a large area for vehicles to line up directly on the waterfront.
Preliminary plans for a new terminal include a large area for vehicles to line up directly on the waterfront.

Terminal plans

The Steamship Authority is also moving forward with plans to rebuild the Woods Hole terminal. The latest design concept features a large area for vehicles to line up directly on the waterfront, with a two-story terminal building about 240 feet back from the slips, and a shuttle bus drop-off area behind the terminal.

At the request of the Woods Hole community working group, SSA management had asked Bertaux + Iwerks Architects to evaluate several possible variations of the “single level” and “split level” alternative design concepts presented last November that open up the water view as much as possible, according to a management report of the March authority board meeting.

The architects were also asked to develop an additional design concept that relocates the terminal building to where the SSA’s freight shed is currently located. SSA management is expected to present a preferred design concept to Authority members when they meet on April 22 in Woods Hole.

“This is a little frightening because of the money involved,” Mr. Hanover said. “Woods Hole is the last terminal to be renovated. It’s on wood pilings that are starting to fail. I think they were put in in the 1800s.”

Mr. Hanover is critical of organized opposition to the plans. He said Steamship Authority management has already made too many concessions to a working group representing the Woods Hole community.

“A lot of these people are worried about the view from the bridge,” Mr. Hanover said. “I didn’t understand what they were talking about, because the only view I want to see is which boat is in the slip.”

Mr. Hanover said he has concerns with the current design about the distance passengers must walk from the terminal or shuttle buses to board boats. “We need to make it like people don’t feel they’re on a cross-country hike to get to the boat,” he said.



  2. Mr. Hanover is being silly. A two hundred a forty foot distance from terminal to boat entry ramps is a “cross-country hike? A cross-country hike, of 3,000 miles at 5,280 feet, is fifteen million, eight hundred and forty thousand feet. No comparison.

    Why, in the course of making these plans, does the employee parking area seem to be an untouchable area?

    Another question: How can you call a boat that carries four hundred people a “freight” boat?

    The harbors of Woods Hole and Holmes Hole get more and more crowded. Considering the added risk factor of in-harbor turning, plus the added time for each turnaround, on each and every trip, plus the extra fuel that turning around consumes, does it make any sense at all to have a single-ender ferry?

    If the reporting of this article is accurate, it sounds as if the SSA management is just not very interested in listening to the communities it serves.

  3. If anyone is interested in seeing the various proposals for the Woods Hole terminal, how do you get to see them? SSA, please, be more accessible and forthcoming with your expensive plans!

  4. Does anyone remember the abosolute, 100 percent promise by the SSA way back to only use the 2nd silp in Vineyard Haven in emergency situations? The word of the SSA is about as trustworthy as an Obama telepromper speech.

    1. Yes there exempt from all M.V.C. regs. Big boats more traffic,more people, must be the stop and shops fault .

  5. Seems like a long way from the terminal to the boats…especially for people carrying children, luggage and groceries. I guess this will convince more people to bring their cars.

  6. Ugg. Why does a freight boat need to cost 35 million! The 200K savings per year with the new boat will never materialize. Is that a savings compared with the Governor or the Island Home? How about comparing the savings with a used boat and negotiate special staffing with the union before you build the boat! Ask the board. they haven’t gotten any written agreements from the union!

    1. As of yesterday, two pounds of Cabot sharp cheddar cheese at the Falmouth Stop and Shop costs $8.99.
      The identical package of cheese in the Vineyard Haven store?

      1. Remember SSA went up 20% on freight and trucks?
        Fuel cost added for SSA ,fuel cost for trucks,Mass truck and trailer plates up,insurance up,CDL up,mass road tax up.
        Just the cost of doing business,dig deep sorry.

        1. The cheese must be specially freighted to the Vineyard on mouse-powered SSA triremes, if so, the additional cost would be understandable.

          1. The MVC would stonewall a bridge with its high profile above the horizon. A tunnel would be better … and have the exit at the end of the Beach Street extension so Vineyard Haven can still complain about the traffic at five corners.

  7. In their defense, the SSA obviously misused the word “emergency.” When lines of cars have backed up on either side, they want to get another boat running ASAP, meaning two slips will be needed at the same time. To have a a ferry circling because the only slip is filled will not do much to clear that line of cars.

  8. IF your going to replace the Governor ,make it the same type, center pilot house,
    DOUBLE ENDED, If the powers to be thumb their nose at the town ,i think a lot more
    moorings could be added in the area with big boats hooked to them !

  9. I really have to express my displeasure with Marc Hanover’s concerning the new ferry. I think it’s no secret that Martha’s Vineyard residents want a double-ended ferry. He says “this is what the Captains want, this is what the management wants”. I think he forget that he’s there to serve the people of Martha’s Vineyard and get us “what we want!” Riding the MV Governor is on a warm summer day across Vineyard Sound is the best ferry ride. Unlike traveling on the other freight boats, people congregate and socialize up front. I could see that the low-lying boat could prove harder to navigate but the proposed design of the new boat is a real ugly duckling. They designed a boat for them not for us. Most of the people who work for the Steamship Authority won’t have to live with this boat for the next 40 or 50 years. We will. Who works for who?

    1. mr. hanover is only worried about the access for customers at his place of business and nothing else..

  10. Doesn’t anyone besides myself think that spending 35 million dollars for a custom freight boat is an outrage? Why should we spend so much money that increases the cost of all goods and services on the island? Why?

  11. When it comes to the new terminal I wish the SSA would look at the Cape May N.J. terminal of the Cape May Lewes Ferry. There are plenty of comfortable seats and nice clean bath rooms while you wait. You then go up stairs, escalator or elevator to a second level with an enclosed, climate controlled, elevated walkway that branches off to each boat slip where you cross a small gap outside for the gangway onto the boats. No standing in the weather and clouds of second hand smoke waiting to go around in loops like a heard of cows (Not to mention how many slips and falls take place). Take a look at
    They also build their boats so you can open your car door and actually get in or out with out an insurance claim..

  12. I’m no lawyer but I think the Tisbury regulation requiring a double-ender will lose in court. The SSA runs commercial ferries. The benefactor for the regulation is obviously the two privately owned and chartered schooners moored near the channel. Ask any seasoned boat owner, who has right of way in the channel, commercial or private?