Port Council backs early morning freight

The Governor, a SSA freight ferry, in Woods Hole. —Eunki Seonwoo

Despite critical opposition from Woods Hole residents, the Port Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to keep the 5:30 am freight ferry trips.

The early morning ferry will likely be part of the 2024 operating schedule, which the Port Council also approved. 

The allowance of the 5:30 am freight ferry has been an ongoing battle between the Steamship Authority (SSA) and, largely, Woods Hole residents. In April, the SSA received a petition with 112 signatures objecting to the early boat, which led to a public hearing in May. A number of Woods Hole residents spoke against the early morning ferry during the hearing. Many residents who spoke during the hearing expressed concerns such as noise from trucks and safety concerns about traffic. 

Davis said on Tuesday that the claims from Woods Hole residents have been the same as in the past, such as allegations that the SSA did not pursue “multiple viable alternatives” for off-Cape freight service. He said the claims also included a generalized public health impact, and that the new, third slip was only used for emergency purposes. 

“Those lacked factual basis,” Davis said. However, he said the SSA will continue to discuss the schedule’s impact on Falmouth with its community. 

The SSA also received a letter from the Falmouth Select Board with a request to drop the 5:30 ferry, according to Davis. 

But on the other hand, there has been support on the Island to keep the early morning ferry. The SSA received letters of support from some Island towns and from Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

Davis said the SSA staff recommended keeping the 5:30 am ferry for the following year’s schedule, although the vehicles on this freight ferry will be limited to those under 40 feet in length since they make less noise. 

“The schedule that we’re proposing is essentially the same schedule that we’ve now operated since 2018,” he said. 

Tisbury council representative John Cahill pointed out that his town also has a 5:30 am boat on the schedule, and he had not heard complaints from Tisbury residents. “We welcome it, and we need it,” he said. 

When Oak Bluffs council representative Joe Sollito asked whether there was a way to know how many of the trucks that drive down Woods Hole Road were actually coming to get a ride on the ferry, SSA director of shoreside operations Allison Fletcher said “No.”

Sollito said he thinks people in Falmouth don’t realize the limited parking the Vineyard has for trucks, particularly with the increase in people staying on the Island. “Maybe they should come over to the Vineyard sometime and see what our problems are,” he said. 

The 2024 schedule still needs to be approved by the SSA board, which is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, July 18.


  1. As a Vineyard resident, Woods Hole residents are right about the noise, and the answer that was given to Joe Solitto was disengenous — of course there is a way to know how many trucks are going to the SSA, they all have reservations, not to mention the fact that, let’s face it, caravans of trucks are not driving to little ol’ Woods Hole for sightseeing or to drop off frequent and voluminous cargo for the benefit of the tiny village of Falmouth.

    Bob Davis was very disrespectful by saying, “those have no factual basis” in response to general health concerns. Who is he to say it isn’t dangerous to experience multiple health problems related to sleeping disorders and their side effects due to early morning truck runs? Certainly not a physician. He is protecting the bottom line.

    Lastly, John Cahill mentions Tisbury. Before I lived in Edgartown, I lived in Vineyard Haven, right across from the SSA in the Thomas Chase House behind the rental car outlet, across from where the old Mad Martha’s used to be — the din was terrible and I still suffer generalized hearing loss and a kind of PTSD from the backup beeps and idling early in the morning and throughout the day. Davis might run the boats over at a high success rate in terms of completing trips, but it all leaves a lot to be desired. Those boats used to run like clockwork and they don’t need a magician to do so — overall, we have seen more error and bad judgement than not and if he were in the private sector, his head would have rolled a long time ago.

  2. perfectly said….. have the residents from woods hole come over and see what the problems are for themselves….. they knew what they were getting into when they bought their property in the beginning…. they want quiet in the morning for their lil tea cups while we suffer over here with limited ways to get out…… move….. or close the hole…

    • Why are the Island’s problems Woods Hole Crybabies problems?
      Island traffic is no gain for Woods Hole.
      If you had ever lived there you would know.
      The solution to your Island suffering is a one way ticket to, wait for it, Woods Hole.
      Transportation centers are nasty places, they belong in places like New Bedford.
      New Bedford loves trucks.
      And soon, trains.

  3. From the October 2011 Steamship Board meeting minutes, when a 5:30AM freight schedule was first proposed from Woods Hole: “Mr. Hanover … cautioned that there should not be any excessive noise in either Woods Hole or Vineyard Haven, observing that if the Authority’s operations begin to cause problems at that time of the morning, the early trips may have to be discontinued.” The Falmouth Port Council member at the time voted against a 5:30AM freight scheduling from Woods Hole. In other words, Steamship Authority leaders have understood that such early morning loud freight trucks traveling in neighborhoods along Palmer Ave., North Main St., Locust St., Woods Hole Road, Crane St., and Cowdry Road could be a problem in terms of waking up residents before 5AM on a daily basis. These neighborhoods are residentially zoned.

  4. Woods Hole was a good choice for a port in the 1950s
    In hindsight it is poor choice.
    No major highways or rail link.

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