A push to preserve Cuttyhunk lifeline 

A state bidding process has some people nervous about the island ferry’s future. 

The M/V Cuttyhunk out on the water. —Courtesy of Cuttyhunk Ferry Company

A coalition of stakeholders are pushing to preserve a crucial ferry to Cuttyunk, following concerns that some developers — including possibly the offshore wind industry — may try to outbid the operation.

The Massachusetts Development Finance Agency (MassDevelopment) had issued a request for proposal (RFP) for the “use and development” of the eight-acre New Bedford State Pier where the Cuttyhunk Ferry Company has operated for about two decades.

This past Saturday, the Gosnold Select Board met and voted to submit a joint proposal with the ferry company and the Buzzards Bay Coalition, which manages conservation land on the island. 

The Times reached Cuttyhunk Ferry Company owner Jono Billings and Gosnold Select Board Chair Gail Blout for comment, but they say they are bound by a provision in the bidding process that prohibits them from speaking on the matter with the press. 

Cuttyhunk Ferry Company runs one of the only year-round routes between New Bedford and the island. According to the company’s website, the vessel M/V Cuttyhunk is able to bring 149 passengers to and from the island in an hour. The vessel can also take freight cargo. 

Under the bidding process, the state asks that a portion of or all of the state pier under a 35-year lease be developed with the winning bidder able to sublease parts of the pier. There are some restrictions for proposals, such as only up to 20 percent of the square footage be used for offshore wind development purposes and prohibiting any single person or group from having the exclusive use of the pier. 

The RFP also lists several existing uses that should be incorporated and continued in a redevelopment proposal, including a floating wooden berth for law enforcement, a seasonal berthing area for the historic schooner Ernestina-Morrissey, and temporary dockage for commercial fishing vessel repair and maintenance. 

There is a lack of certainty regarding what may happen to a private business like the Cuttyhunk ferry.

The ferry has had to deal with uncertainty regarding its spot at the pier before. According to The New Bedford Light, the current RFP is the successor of a previous bidding process that was won by Taber’s Wharf Partnership, which was shot down by the state last August over what MassDevelopment said was conflicts with state law in the proposal. In 2022, the ferry company had received reassurance during the bidding process from the partnership that the Cuttyhunk ferry would not be kicked out of the pier.

When The Times reached out to MassDevelopment regarding risks to pre-existing uses on the state pier from incoming proposals, agency spokesperson Kelsey Schiller said, “current uses at the pier, including the Cuttyhunk Ferry, will be considered as part of our review.”

The deadline for the RFP is on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 5 pm. The state anticipates making a decision by April, when the summer season starts revving up for the Cape and Islands.


      • “They” are the voters of Dukes, Nantucket and Barnstable counties.
        There is no other they than you and I.

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