Davis pressed on ferry electrification at O.B. open house

On Wednesday, Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis was pressed to electrify the SSA fleet. — Rich Saltzberg

At an open house held in the Oak Bluffs library to field public questions about proposed fare increases, Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis was surrounded by Vineyarders who advocated for the electrification of the ferry line. Edgartown energy committee chairman Alan Strahler told Davis he believes Vineyard support for electric ferries is strong. 

“I think a lot of people on this Island would be supportive and want to see this happen,” he said. 

Tisbury energy committee chairman Bill Straw asked Davis if he would act if all six Island towns supported electrifying the SSA fleet in the next round of annual town meetings. 

“It could be an expensive proposition,” Davis said. He pointed out he would need to bring the matter to the SSA board for deliberation. As he did when his stance was sought on the subject at a July 24 meeting, Davis said the U.S. Coast Guard needs to appraise and certify the onboard safety of the lithium-ion batteries needed to power such vessels. 

Martha’s Vineyard Climate Task Force members Kate Warner and Cheryl Doble also questioned Davis.

Budget chats were nevertheless held. Tisbury town administrator Jay Grande sat down with SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll to learn more, and Dukes County commissioner Leon Brathwaite sat down with SSA treasurer and comptroller Mark Rozum. 

The SSA anticipates a net income of $2.4 million in 2020, a figure it deems too low. In order to arrive at a net income of $7.4 million, a number the ferry line finds more secure, it has proposed increasing fares. The proposed fares include premium rates for weekend travel during the summer. Passenger fares are not affected.



  1. maybe you can power the next SSA vessel with a windmill, ask the town of Falmouth how well their windmills worked out for them. They would still need fossil fuel-driven electricity to power the LI batteries. Ask any firefighter how stabile an electric car battery is. You might not like the answer you get

  2. Did anyone or will anyone ask them if they can run the fast ferry for passengers again? If the move the passengers every 20 min they will have no need for a new terminal.

  3. I totally support coal,um, oil fired, ah, fossil fuel supported electricity that will move these boats across the sound or maybe just use the current boats that directly use fossil fuels but are WAY less expensive.

  4. Nothing better than the old Islander. Why can’t we just replicate that model over and over. Like a flathead Ford, nothing fancy but reliable and sturdy as heck. I endorse using the abundant fossil fuels on this continent to continue propelling similar vessels indefinitely. Yakkery about powering our ferries otherwise is misguided at best. Stay with what’s worked all along. It’s the wrong place to demand change. I think exorbitant proposals for electric ferries are in polar opposition to practical, frugal guidance.

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