Islanders Lambaste New Bedford Plan

Seabulk Proposal for Private Freight Service to Vineyard and
Nantucket Meets with Forceful Opposition


Vineyard residents spoke out last night against a proposal by a
private hauler to run year-round ferry service between New Bedford and
the Islands, calling the plan ill-conceived and one more burden on the
port of Vineyard Haven.

"I strongly object to this proposal because Vineyard Haven
doesn't want to see any more freight traffic. Vineyard Haven takes
the impact, Vineyard Haven takes the trash. I've been told that
the Woods Hole Road is a little winding country road. Well, what are we,
Route 128?" declared Marie Laursen, a Tisbury resident.

"The Steamship Authority should say no to this," said
Jay Gallagher, an Aquinnah resident and SSA employee.

"The mayor and the city solicitor in New Bedford want to run
this route, let's cut to the chase here," said Tisbury
selectman Tom Pachico.

The remarks came during a public hearing on the license application
by Seabulk Inc. to run ferry service between New Bedford and the
Islands. Formerly known as Hvide Marine Inc., Seabulk is the same
company that presently operates the pilot freight program between New
Bedford and the Vineyard. The SSA is paying the company $1.6 million to
run the program this year.

The new license request from Seabulk calls for launching a startup
ferry service between New Bedford and both Islands after the completion
of the pilot program at the end of this year. Seabulk wants to run three
trips a day to the Vineyard and two trips a day to Nantucket.

Although the license request is chiefly for carrying freight, the
company also wants to backhaul cars from the two Islands to New Bedford
on a standby basis, and it wants the right to carry passengers and cars
in both directions if the SSA will not agree to force some 8,000 trucks
to use the private freight service. Seabulk has said it will charge
fares no more than 10 per cent higher than SSA fares. The company
projects a $300,000 operating profit, but the numbers are still under
review. Seabulk also wants to use the SSA facilities for $1 a year.

The dollar-a-year plan drew sharp comments.

"I have some concern if they want to use the Steamship
Authority facilities for the princely sum of one dollar," said Oak
Bluffs resident Rachel Vanderhoop.

Held in the Oak Bluffs School, last night's was the last of
five public hearings on the license application. The hearing started a
half an hour late because SSA organizers had failed to acquire the key
to the school. The session was also unusual in that both the chief
spokesman for the applicant and the boat line board of governors were
absent. The hearing was conducted by SSA general counsel Steven Sayers,
who acted as a sort of one-man band, presenting and explaining the
Seabulk application, explaining the SSA process and fielding questions.
Vineyard SSA governor J.B. Riggs Parker sat in the audience. Barry
Fuller, a captain who operates one of the Seabulk ferries, also sat in
the audience on behalf of Seabulk. Mr. Fuller is the former general
manager of the boat line.

About 20 people attended the hearing, several of them SSA employees.
Several Tisbury residents also attended, and the impact on the town of
Tisbury from the SSA was a predominant theme.

"Vineyard Haven will be a party to this or we are going to
war. It's that simple," Mr. Pachico said.

At the outset there were many questions about the details of the
application. Among other things, Tisbury town officials said the
application may come under the new district of critical planning concern
(DCPC) regulations for the Tisbury harbor.

Mr. Sayers conceded that the application is accompanied by many
questionable assumptions, all of which are under review by SSA staff.

The Seabulk application is opposed by all five unions representing
SSA employees, and a handful of spokesmen were present last night.

"We think the mission of the Steamship Authority is being
betrayed," said Mr. Gallagher, a member of the union that
represents some 300 unlicensed crew members on SSA vessels.

New Bedford city solicitor George Leontire's name came up
frequently during the hearing. Mr. Sayers told the group that the
Seabulk application had in fact been written by Mr. Leontire.

Later in the hearing Mr. Pachico announced that he and Tisbury
selectman Tristan Israel had met with Mr. Leontire in New Bedford on
Wednesday. Mr. Pachico also said that the Vineyard SSA governor had met
with Mr. Leontire one day earlier. Mr. Pachico questioned Mr. Parker
about whether Mr. Leontire had offered to have the city buy a ferry and
build a terminal facility for the SSA. "He said he offered that to
Mr. Parker," Mr. Pachico said. "The check's in the
mail," Mr. Parker replied. "Tuesday at 3:30 p.m., Leontire
said he made the offer," Mr. Pachico repeated.

"I'm sorry, I wasn't at your meeting," Mr.
Parker said.

"Nor were we at yours, obviously," Mr. Pachico returned.

The boat line board of governors will vote on the Seabulk license
request on April 27.