At their Nov. 20 meeting in New Bedford, Steamship Authority (SSA) members adopted interim guidelines for use of the Island Home's lift decks during the off season on a trial basis. According to Wayne Lamson, boatline general manager, the new regimen will allow the lift decks to be used more regularly than they have been, to carry additional automobiles during high demand periods, depending on time of day and day of the week.
During trips on which the lift decks will be used - not the earliest trips to and from Woods Hole each day - Island Home's auto allocation will be increased by eight preferred spaces that may be booked one to seven days in advance. If those spaces are not booked, they will be available first for standby customers and then for customers with reservations on later trips, Mr. Lamson explained in a memo documenting the members' decisions at Tuesday's meeting. At night, both lift decks will be used. Because the test will be conducted in the off-season, the members will revisit the issue on the eve of the reservations-only period.
In other action, members modified travel benefits for themselves and port council members, so that the new rules conformed to those affecting employees. From now on, members and their spouses will be able to travel as passengers at no charge only when space is available and no paying passengers have been refused passage because of capacity limitations. Members who prefer to reserve tickets, for instance on the fast ferry Iyanough, will pay half price. The new rule provides for reserved, no-charge vehicle passage only when space is available and all paying passengers have been accommodated. Half-price passage is available to members who go through the reservation system as ordinary customers do. For port council members the privileges will end when their terms end, but the privilege for boatline members will extend even after their terms end. The new rules will apply to current members and port council members. The more generous rules applied to former members will be continued.
According to Mr. Lamson, the boatline had used the lift decks only to help recover from a disruption of service, to help prevent standby customers from being left behind overnight, to eliminate a late trip for standbys when there are fewer than 16 cars to be carried, to help accommodate a specific period of increased demand for vehicle deck space in lieu of running additional vessels, and for training.
Members also approved guidelines to regulate the display of advertising on Steamship Authority vessels and facilities. Under the rules, advertisers of all products will face minimum standards - no profanity, nudity, or graphic violence, and no ads for tobacco products, "adult" goods or services, or political speech. Some ads for alcoholic beverages will be allowed. Placement of advertisements will also be regulated, chiefly for safety reasons.
The members put off to December a decision on a request by New England Fast Ferry to reduce its off-season schedule between New Bedford and Vineyard Haven.
In other business, the members heard a report that the contractor at work on improvements to the Steamship Authority maintenance facility in Fairhaven has found rocks and debris in the way of the work, which may add $200,000 to the cost, although the rehab work continues on schedule. The Oak Bluffs terminal reconstruction is also on schedule, and the transfer bridge at Oak Bluffs will be moved to Fairhaven and installed there.