Steamship Authority names new freight boat Barnstable 

Board pays homage to the mainland; SSA plans website upgrades. 

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The SSA announced their newest vessel's name will be the Barnstable. — Courtesy SSA

The Steamship Authority (SSA) board unanimously approved naming the third offshore supply vessel, which it plans to convert into a ferry, the Barnstable. Two other offshore supply vessels, also planned to be converted into ferries to replace the Katama and Gay Head, were named Aquinnah and Monomoy in September. 

The Barnstable, formerly the HOS North Star, was purchased in November for $5.6 million, with support from the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (CCRTA). It will replace the aging Sankaty. 

SSA general manager Robert Davis presented a list of potential new names for the HOS North Star earlier this month at a port council meeting: the Amity, Barnstable, Cape Cod, Cottage City, Craigville, Fairhaven, Hyannis Port, New Bedford, Sandy Neck, and Tuckernuck. 

The council recommended three for the board’s approval: Barnstable, Fairhaven, and Wampanoag. The council’s choice was based on the communities that the SSA serves. and the names of previous vessels. 

Board vice chair and Barnstable representative Robert Jones suggested going with Hyannis Port, rather than Barnstable. “Hyannis Port is highly recognized across the world,” he said.

Board member and Falmouth representative Peter Jeffrey agreed on having a name relating to Cape Cod, but he liked Barnstable. “I think this vessel should have a Cape Cod name, in part to recognize CCRTA. But CCRTA serves not only Hyannis Port but all of Barnstable,” Jeffrey said. 

Board member and Dukes County representative Jim Malkin said he preferred the name Wampanoag “after the native owners of the land.” However, the SSA had not received input from the Wampanoag community about the name usage. 

“We received word back that they would get back to us, but they had not,” Davis said. 

Malkin added, “I would not want to be accused of cultural appropriation” against the Wampanoag tribe. He later moved to name the vessel the Barnstable. 

Meanwhile, the board unanimously approved forming a working group to manage the process of review, evaluation, and moving forward with the SSA’s information technology infrastructure. The group will be developing a request for proposals (RFP) to hire a consultant to examine and evaluate the SSA’s information technology infrastructure alongside providing a template and timeline to implement improvements. 

Davis gave a rundown of the online issues customers faced during the summer reservation opening days for the Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket routes, which included long wait times in the virtual waiting rooms. The Steamship social media pages were flooded with complaints. 

Addressing the social media response, Malkin said the SSA is not the only organization that has had technological problems, pointing to the New York Stock Exchange’s glitch on Tuesday. CNN reported the glitch led to “massive price swings,” and sent “some shares into a nosedive.”

“Which doesn’t necessarily forgive the New York Stock Exchange, nor necessarily forgive the Steamship Authority, but it does speak to the complexity of issues in technology,” Malkin said. 

Malkin suggested having a working group, made up of members from the council, board, and SSA management, make a recommendation for “a way forward” with the RFP. He also said the new SSA website launch should wait until its technology is looked over by a consultant. 

Board chair and Nantucket representative Robert Ranney said he wants to make sure the SSA won’t be slowed down by too many meetings, so he was in favor of board and council members working with staff to align priorities to develop the RFP.

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