SSA will consider freight service between New Bedford and Island

— File photo by Brian Jolley

The Steamship Authority (SSA) plans to conduct a study that will examine how best to replace the freight vessel Governor. The study will include the economic feasibility of providing freight service between Martha’s Vineyard and New Bedford.

Mark Hanover, Martha’s Vineyard SSA board member, said the Governor is an aging vessel built in the 1950s that does not perform well in the sea conditions between Martha’s Vineyard and Woods Hole.

Mr. Hanover said the numbers would underpin any decision-making, including service with New Bedford. “It’s all about the economics,” he said. “If the economics are feasible I will support it, otherwise I won’t.”

Mr. Hanover said there are many questions and variables. For example, one option would be to provide New Bedford freight service at night to carry trash and other freight.

In the late 1990s, proposals for service between Martha’s Vineyard and New Bedford provided a political flashpoint that resulted in a brief trial freight link to the port city, and initiated a legislative battle that ended with the expansion of the SSA board to include a voting New Bedford member.

SSA general manager Wayne Lamson presented the study proposal and its scope at the boatline’s monthly business meeting Tuesday in Woods Hole.

According to a management summary of the meeting, the SSA study will determine “how the SSA should replace the Governor to best provide it with additional operating and scheduling flexibility.”

The alternatives that will be reviewed, in addition to the possibility of doing nothing, will include: the acquisition and modification of a used supply vessel up to 235 feet in length with similar or additional truck carrying capacity as the SSA’s other freight vessels; construction of a new 235-foot freight vessel with significantly more truck carrying capacity than any of the SSA’s current freight vessels; construction of a new passenger/vehicle ferry similar to the Martha’s Vineyard or the Island Home and conversion of the Nantucket into a freight vessel with the removal of her two mezzanine passenger decks.

The examination of freight service between New Bedford and Martha’s Vineyard will consider seasonal and year-round service based upon different sailing speeds and truck-carrying capacities, the report said.