The Steamship Authority expects to have bids back in early to mid-December for conversion work on the newly acquired vessels Aquinnah and Monomoy, members of the Port Council were told on Tuesday. The vessels, previously used as offshore supply ships, cost the SSA $11.3 million. The overall project, conversion of the vessels to ferries and the combined purchase price, is anticipated to cost the SSA about $32 million.
The Port Council was also informed a contract should be awarded for the conversion work at the SSA board meeting on Dec. 20.
Drawings put together by the SSA’s marine operations team and a naval architect reveal the Aquinnah (which is expected to be identical to the Monomoy) will have a similar shape to the freightboats Gay Head, Katama, and Sankaty. Two of those vessels, Gay Head and Katama, are nearing the end of their useful lives, and will be replaced by the Aquinnah and Monomoy. Unlike the Gay Head and Katama, passenger seating won’t require a climb. Seating on the Aquinnah is planned for the same level as the vehicle deck of the vessel.
SSA general manager Robert Davis said approximately 80 seats will be available in the passenger area, and the vessel will be designed to carry 350 people overall. Mark Amundsen, director of marine operations, told the council it would be possible to add another passenger area above the first one, but that would necessitate an elevator. Davis said one of the reasons the SSA is disinclined to consider another level of seating is the “extremely long lead time” for such an elevator.
There will be no seating forward of the wheelhouse, Amundsen said. That area would be reserved for an anchor and windlass. SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll later told The Times passengers will not be allowed in that area at all.
In response to a question by The Times, Davis said the gate on the stern of the Aquinnah is expected to be a metal roller, similar to what the Woods Hole has on its stern.
In response to a question from Falmouth port council member Rob Munier, Amundsen said the SSA is targeting shipyards in the Gulf for the work, as it will lessen towing.
“Obviously the closer the yard, the cheaper it is to get there,” Amundsen said.
However, Amundsen also said, “East Coast” shipyards would also get bid packages.
“We’ve had a fairly strong interest in this project, given that it’s for two vessels,” Amundsen said.
Following the award of a contract at the next board meeting, Amundsen said he expects to have the two vessels, Aquinnah and Monomoy, towed to the winning shipyard.
Amundsen said he expects the Aquinnah to be done, including crew trained on it, and ready for service in mid-July 2023.
In response to a question from Tisbury’s Port Council member John Cahill, Amundsen said he expects the Monomoy to be ready for service about 60 days after the Aquinnah, but noted “that schedule isn’t firm yet.”
“Thank you for all the work it has taken to finally get here,” Nathaniel Lowell told Amundsen and his team.