Tisbury cool to New Bedford freight proposal

A company is proposing expanding freight service beyond its Nantucket operation.

41 North Offshore, LLC is looking to expand services to Martha’s Vineyard. —Eunki Seonwoo

Tisbury town officials are pushing back against a New Bedford shipping company’s proposal to bring freight into the Steamship Authority terminal in Vineyard Haven, worrying that the added traffic would have a detrimental impact on the town’s already busy waterfront and congested downtown.

Tisbury town administrator Jay Grande told Steamship officials this week that he’s surprised that the proposal has gotten this far in the process without consultation with the town. “We have significant concerns,” Grande told the Steamship Authority Port Council during a meeting Tuesday morning. 

New Bedford company 41 North has a license from the Steamship to deliver freight to and from Nantucket over the next three years. The company originally received the graces of the ferry line in 2022, to assist UPS in getting packages to Nantucket. 

In the recent proposed expansion, the company requested approval to use the slip in Vineyard Haven to transport trucks and other freight to and from Martha’s Vineyard as well.

Supplying freight traffic out of New Bedford — rather than in Woods Hole — has been a decades-long issue for Falmouth residents who want to keep larger trucks off the roads leading into Woods Hole village; they also have concerns with early morning trucks at the Woods Hole terminal.

The Steamship Authority has opened 41 North’s proposal for public comment until Feb. 16.

In a pitch before the Steamship’s board at the end of last year, company representatives said there has been a steady increase in demand for services to the Vineyard, and that they could supplement existing Steamship services.

According to Steamship COO Mark Higgins, they have coordinated a schedule that would not impact Steamship operations at the Vineyard Haven slip. The company is proposing a schedule that would see a tugboat and barge arriving in Vineyard Haven just past 6 am, and then an afternoon arrival of about 6 pm. 

Grande told the Port Council on Tuesday that there are limitations to freight traffic, especially at the Five Corners area. He was concerned that bigger and more trucks and other equipment would clog local roads. The town administrator noted that 41 North has not produced any study on the impact the operation would have on the traffic in Vineyard Haven.

He also suggested that 41 North should produce a study of the impacts to the harbor. Grande said that the harbor is busy in the summer with recreational boaters, a recreational marina, town beach and facilities, and other activities, and he worried about safety with an additional freight service.

Tisbury Port Council representative John Cahill also voiced his concern at Tuesday’s meeting, suggesting that there already was a company providing freight service to and from New Bedford that does not operate within the inner harbor, where much of the boating activity already occurs.

Tisbury Towing, a company that operates off Beach Road — outside of Five Corners and downtown Vineyard Haven — already provides supplemental services for the Steamship. 

General manager for the towing company Glenn DeBlase told The Times after the meeting that they do have the ability to meet a growing demand, if the Steamship requests their services.

The general manager said that the company is in the process of rebuilding a transfer bridge to be able to offload wider loads, like swimming pools. DeBlase said their operation could help to keep trucks off the roads in Woods Hole; the company has a facility in New Bedford, right off Route 195, that is easily accessible for truck drivers.

DeBlase said that the Packer family established Tisbury Towing in the 1960s, and it has been providing services ever since. “We’ve been doing this for quite a few years,” DeBlase said, adding that they hire workers locally.

The Port Council took no action on the issue at its Tuesday meeting. The Steamship will take public comments on the proposal before issuing any approvals to 41 North.


  1. I think it would be terrific if all the harbors/Waterway committees and townships in which SSA operates have the ability to control and limit volume of traffic.

  2. I think it would be terrific if Woods Hole had the ability to control and limit volume of traffic in the harbor, and on Woods Hole Road.

    Better still, give me the control.

  3. No barge traffic to the SSA slips.
    That part of Tisbury and its harbor cannot deal with any more traffic, either on land or on sea.
    Five Corners is already a mess. The increased traffic of huge trucks is a burden on the pavement infrastructure. Is the state planning to send Tisbury a few million bucks a year to maintain overstressed roadways?
    Early in the morning, people are driving to work.
    They don’t need more delays as behemoth trucks navigate Five Corners.
    There is already enough loud early-morning freight traffic.
    Quite a few people actually live on Main Street, in the immediate downtown area.
    That point is generally forgotten by planners.
    These residents do not need even more noise and more behemoths wrecking the corner at Main Street and Cromwell Lane to get to the terminal.
    As for the harbor itself, that area is far too constricted to handle tugboats pulling barges on lines.
    Especially now that the Vineyard Wind infrastructure reaches far out into the harbor, restricting the room to maneuver even more.
    The answer to the New Bedford outfit is NO.
    No es posible.
    They can park their barges at Packer’s or wherever.
    And, we should put residents and infrastructure under this kind of stress for the importation of SWIMMING POOLS?

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