A New Bedford freight company that has provided service to Nantucket is looking to expand services to Martha’s Vineyard.
41 North Offshore, LLC, owner Jonah Mikutowicz received unanimous approval from the Steamship Authority (SSA) board to have his company’s license renewed for barge services to Nantucket through 2026.
During the meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 28, the company also approached the board to amend its license to provide barge services to Martha’s Vineyard.
The board decided to table the request while the SSA researched the possibility of expanded services.
Mikutowicz said there has been steadily increasing demand for services to Martha’s Vineyard. While operational and economic factors would make running a service to both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard “tricky,” Mikutowicz said, this could help supplement the services the SSA had been providing.
“We do think there’s an opportunity here that would benefit … freight traffic looking to get to the Vineyard,” he said.
On the Nantucket route, 41 North Offshore filled a gap in 2022 with its barge services when UPS failed to make its summer reservations aboard the SSA on time.
SSA General Manager Robert Davis expressed some concerns about the proposed change, such as the amount of activity at the Vineyard Haven Terminal. Earlier this year, the board gave the green light for Seastreak to provide winter commuter passenger service from New Bedford to Vineyard Haven.
SSA Martha’s Vineyard representative Jim Malkin pointed out that 41 North Offshore had expressed concern that there wouldn’t be “consistent demand” for Nantucket, and asked what Mikutowicz saw for the Vineyard. According to Mikutowicz, his company receives up to three service requests per month to the Vineyard, which they can’t fulfill. The company refers these requests to the SSA, and usually they don’t hear back.
“Our assumption is that they’ve made some arrangements with the Steamship Authority in some fashion,” Mikutowicz said, adding that there were still more requests for a service to Martha’s Vineyard than Nantucket, “two- to threefold.”
Malkin followed up with a concern that this could potentially give away truck revenue, an important income source for the authority, as well as scheduling issues for the busy Vineyard Haven Terminal.
Mikutowicz said users of the barge service would be very specific, primarily moving freight in bulk on a specific day, so there would be minimal impact to the SSA’s revenue. “It doesn’t make sense for us to take a barge with just one unit on it over,” he said, later adding that nearly all inquiries 41 North Offshore receives for freight services to the Islands are from those who were told by SSA reservation staff to seek the New Bedford company as an alternative mode of transportation.
As for scheduling, that would need to be worked out by the SSA so 41 North Offshore’s vessels didn’t conflict with slots meant for the authority or Seastreak.
SSA Falmouth representative Peter Jeffrey expressed support for the endeavor, since it could lessen the burden felt by Woods Hole from truck traffic. “I would urge the authority to find a way to make this work,” he said.
After further discussion, the board unanimously approved extending the license, but tabled 41 North Offshore’s request to provide service to Martha’s Vineyard until the details were hashed out. The topic is expected to be ready for review by next spring.