The Steamship Authority (SSA) met Tuesday morning in Vineyard Haven and voted on a name for its new $43 million passenger/vehicle ferry, approved 2015 winter and spring operating schedules, and promised new changes down the line that will include improved passenger WiFi and electronic passenger ticketing.
The SSA had narrowed the name choices for its new ferry, scheduled to replace the Governor in spring 2016, to Quissett and Woods Hole. On a motion by Falmouth member Catherine Norton, seconded by Vineyard member Marc Hanover, the board voted on Woods Hole.
A contract for the boat’s construction is expected to be awarded in December. The single-ended boat will have an uncovered back deck and be capable of carrying 384 passengers and 50-55 cars or 10 semi-trailer trucks. It will serve as a replacement for the aged Governor, which will be sold or scrapped. The Governor’s new $3 million engines will replace the engines on the Sankaty, SSA general manager Wayne Lamson said.
In response to questions from Tisbury harbormaster Jay Wilbur, Mr. Lamson explained that the decision to go with a single end design as opposed to a double-ender was based on cost and the need to service Nantucket. A double-ender would have exceeded the authority’s budget, he said.
The SSA approved the 2015 spring and winter operating schedules with few changes from last year. The winter schedule will start four days later, on January 6, and end one day later, on April 14. The spring schedule will start one day earlier, on April 15, and end one day later, on May 14.
Mr. Lamson also presented the board members with a list of proposed goals for the next 12 months. Mr. Lamson said his goals include oversight of several SSA construction and maintenance projects, as well as improved passenger WiFi and an electronic ticketing system that would allow passengers to purchase tickets online.
Total operating revenues for May increased by $163,317, or 1.9 percent versus the amount projected in the 2014 operating budget, for a total of $8,821,483 in operating revenues. Passenger revenues for the month were up $53,000 versus budget projections, which represents a 2 percent increase. Automobile revenues were up $33,000, or 1.3 percent, versus projections for May. Freight revenues were up $80,000, or 3.1 percent, versus budget projections for the month.
Year-to-date operating revenues through May increased by $496,553, or 2.1 percent, versus the amount projected in the 2014 operating budget, for a total of $24,532,583. Passenger revenues for the year were up $57,000 versus budget projections, which represents a 0.9 percent increase. Automobile revenues were up $14,000, or 0.2 percent, versus budget projections for the year. Freight revenues were up $334,000, or 3.8 percent, versus budget projections for the year. Year-to-date, the vessels have made 7,312 trips. This represents a decrease of 114 trips, or 1.55 percent versus budget.
The SSA transferred a $2.9 million surplus to the special purpose fund, which will go towards the new Woods Hole terminal and ferry slip repairs. A price estimate for the project, expected to be between $40 and 60 million, will be presented by the architecture firm Bertaux+Iwerks by the end of the year.
SSA board members Catherine Norton of Falmouth and Jack Tierney of New Bedford did not attend the meeting, but they participated via conference call.