SSA chooses super freight boat to replace Governor

M/V Governor — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

At a meeting Tuesday in Hyannis, Steamship Authority members endorsed general manager Wayne Lamson’s recommendation that the freight vessel Governor be replaced with a new 235-foot vessel that can operate year-round to either island with a vehicle capacity of up to 17 trucks or 50 car equivalent units and a passenger capacity of at least 384 passengers, including inside seating for at least 250.

The proposed replacement vessel would be similar in size to the Martha’s Vineyard, with the ability to carry a lot more trucks on certain trips, without the first mezzanine passenger decks. She would also be able to carry automobiles and passengers from those automobiles on other trips, according to a management report of the meeting.

The SSA said the new vessel could be a prototype replacement vessel for the SSA’s other freight vessels when they are retired.

Board members agreed with management’s recommendation that the replacement vessel be designed for use comfortably on both routes. However, they asked Mr. Lamson to return next month with an analysis of the costs and benefits that would result if the SSA were to increase the interior passenger capacity of the proposed replacement vessel to more than 500 passengers and were to include more passenger amenities on board, such as a food concession area and larger restrooms.

Three options were on the table last month to replace the aging freight vessel. Each carries a price tag that will put pressure on the fare box. The authority members reviewed the options at their monthly meeting on July 23, held in Oak Bluffs. The choices included a “super-size” freight boat, a new passenger/vehicle ferry similar in size to the Martha’s Vineyard, and an even larger ferry of the same type as the Island Home. Management estimated the cost to operate each boat and estimated operating revenues, or the forecast net loss, at between $2.25 million and $3.8 million.

That difference between operating costs and revenue would be offset by a combination of revenue generated by an increase in traffic volume, greater efficiencies, and a hike in fares, Mr. Lamson said.

In other business, management announced that work is to begin after Columbus Day on improvements to the Palmer Avenue lot in Falmouth, including a bike path connector between the Shining Sea bike path and Palmer Avenue, across from Katharine Lee Bates Road.