Ferry issues are a threat to business


To the Editor:

According to the SSA email on May 7, “During its 1:15 p.m. trip from Vineyard Haven to Woods Hole today, one of the M/V Martha’s Vineyard’s generators briefly lost power … Both the SSA’s Port Engineer and representatives of the generator’s vendor were on board the vessel at the time and resolved the issue.”

The irony that the SSA had the generator’s vendor on board underscores the magnitude of this problem. The repeated ferry breakdowns of the past three months have created short and long term challenges.

This is our life line and it’s broken. As the owners of a small family owned inn we have been adversely affected in more ways than just loss of immediate nightly room inn income from guests who cancel because they received an SSA email regarding a breakdown. The vendors we work with are reluctant to make a plan to bring things or service equipment. Summer guests with reservations are calling to ask about future ferries. Part of the Vineyard’s appeal is the insularity but not the inaccessibility and insecurity about the ferry.

Apparently the appointed SSA governors and the SSA staff that the governors approved and hired have not been able to keep the SSA boats running.

As we understand it the SSA was established under Chapter 701 of the Acts of 1960,

“to provide adequate transportation of persons and necessaries of life for the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.”

The SSA employs about 750 people during its summer peak season. It also receives federal dollars. Perhaps this is time for an investigation by the US. Dept of Transportation Inspector General or Attorney General Maura Healey.

It is apparently too big a problem for the appointed governors or local leaders to fix. We need to have our elected officials figure out what should be done next.

Susan and Sherm Goldstein, owners
Mansion House Inn

This letter was also sent to Senator Edward J. Markey,Senator Elizabeth A. Warren,Representative William R. Keating,Governor Charles D. Baker,Attorney General Maura Healey,Senator Julian Andre Cyr,Representative Dylan A. Fernandes,Dukes County Commission, Steamship Authority Member Marc N. Hanover


  1. My wife and I came to this beautiful place over 10 years ago. We have embraced this place and the necessary use of SSA vessels. In fact for the most part, we love that this place is marginally difficult to be easily accessed. It adds charm.
    However, to apply a disproportionate focus on the impact of SSA service interruptions to businesses here ignores the pervasive issues inherent to the SSA that adversely affects all Islanders all year long.
    We have tolerated increasing excursion fees with minimal grumbling and totally understand the need to plan ahead accordingly in high seasons and in anticipation of weather.
    What is inexcusable is the general abyssmal attitude and poor customer service directed at islanders and their needs. It is a rare SSA employee that is gracious and leaves many of us wondering what we did that elicits such disrespectful, dismissive treatment. If the SSA had competition, I guarantee their behavior would change.
    I would also hope that any outside review of the SSA as a service provider which islanders depend on to get home, would also include a review of services for island residents. There should be provisions for those of us who live here that would make a world of difference. Policies to include preference in standby lanes and the availability to get off island for medical appointments without having to play roulette on the phone at 730am, beg in person or book trips months in advance to make sure you can get to an appointment is a start. Its demoralizing. No other travel service gets to cancel your paid reservation, keep your money and not get you an immediate, next available replacement.
    While excursion rates are lower, they are not reasonable. It is actually becoming cheaper to rent a car in Falmouth and walk on than to use the SSA.
    The SSA has consistently raised rates without cause over the years we have been here and clearly have not managed their profits to maintain boats or provided anything additional to islanders-the reason they are here in the first place. They have, however, gladly dumped more and more cars here without regard to terminal and road capacity and without compensating either Vineyard Haven or Oak Bluffs for the impact.
    To make matters worse, Island selectman have abdicated their responsibilities regarding the SSA to a board with minimal representation and accountability to island governance. We are left to fend for ourselves and demand an audience after an astounding cancellation of almost 600 trips in less than 5 months. Any other business with competition would be closed by now.
    The SSA has clearly forgotten they are a service provider, their customers are Islanders and it is not visitors.
    It is time for SSA accountability.

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