The Steamship Authority has awarded a $36.4 million contract for a large new freight ferry.

At a meeting in Hyannis late last week, the boat line governors voted to hire Conrad Shipyard to build the ferry at their shipyard in Morgan City, La.

The steel ferry, which has already been named Woods Hole, will be built inside a large building at the Louisiana shipyard and delivered to Fairhaven by spring of 2016.

The boat will accommodate 384 people and 55 vehicles and will replace the freight ferry Governor, plying both the Nantucket and the Vineyard routes.

Speaking by telephone last week, SSA general manager Wayne Lamson called the ferry a “super freight boat” and emphasized its large carrying capacity when compared with the other freight boats.

Rendering of freight boat, designed in Washington state. — Ellioy Bay Design Group

The ferry will have a larger passenger area and will include a snack bar. It will also be quieter than the other freight vessels and more maneuverable, Mr. Lamson said.

Conrad was the low bidder for the project. The other proposal was submitted by Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City, Fla., which offered to build the ferry for $41 million.

Boat line representatives traveled to Conrad Shipyard last week to tour the facilities.

“They came away saying they felt the shipyard was capable of doing this and doing a very good job,” Mr. Lamson said.

The ferry will measure 235 feet long, about 20 feet shorter than the Island Home, the newest car and passenger ferry in the fleet that has been in service since 2007. And unlike the Island Home, the Woods Hole will have one wheelhouse instead of two.

The Island Home went to bid about 10 years ago, and cost $32 million; far more than any other previous boat project.

The Woods Hole will cost the Steamship Authority more. SSA senior managers estimate that all told, the budget for the overall project will exceed $40 million.

Many factors contribute to the high cost of ferry construction, said Brian King, vice president of engineering at Elliot Bay Design Group, the firm that designed the ferry. The original estimate for the boat put its price around $38 million.

“Getting a bid that was actually below the engineers’ estimate, that is perfect shooting,” Mr. King said.

Detailed cost estimates rely in part on an itemized assessment of the cost of the parts, labor, and equipment needed for construction, he explained.

The cost is also estimated based on the competitiveness of the market, which Mr. King said was significant among boat yards in the south this year. The yards are busy with commercial contracts, especially for oil rig vessels, so getting two bids on a public project was not a surprise, Mr. King said.

“They weren’t hungry for projects,” he said of shipyards. He added that regulations for the construction of a public-use vessel are more stringent than for commercial boats.

Since the Island Home went to bid, the cost of vessel construction has changed a lot, Mr. King said.

“The marine construction inflation rates have gone up considerably, part of that is the demand,” he said. “It is one thing to rationally assess the cost of construction, but the real cost of the vessel has to do with how much demand there is for the vessels.”

Now that oil prices are depressed, demand may decrease for oil rig vessels, he said.

The Woods Hole will be built in an assembly hall in Morgan City, unlike the Island Home which was built outside.

As a result, weather is not expected to stall the construction at any point. Conrad has 505 days to complete the project.

The vessel is scheduled to arrive in Woods Hole in spring of 2016 in time for Memorial Day weekend.

“I think it’s a great boat and it looks like it’s going to a very good contractor that is well qualified to do this work,” Mr. King said.

In other boat line news, starting in January, Vineyard governor Marc Hanover will become chairman of the Steamship Authority board.