Little more than a decade ago, ferry service from New Bedford to Martha’s Vineyard was a divisive issue that sparked political donnybrooks and changed the way the Steamship Authority is governed.

But on Tuesday, a Steamship Authority hearing on a proposal to expand private passenger ferry service from New Bedford to Oak Bluffs drew less than a handful of Island residents other than elected leaders, business leaders, and SSA officials. Not a single person spoke in opposition to the proposal from Hy-Line, which would also increase passenger service between the Vineyard and Nantucket.

The Steamship Authority, chartered to provide year-round service to the two Islands, is allowed to license competing ferry service.

Michael Santoro, an Oak Bluffs businessman and chairman of the board of selectmen, said selectmen voted unanimously in favor of the proposal at their last meeting.

“It’s an economic engine for all of us,” Mr. Santoro said. “Hopefully it will encourage more passengers and fewer automobiles.”

Representatives of the Oak Bluffs Association and the Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce also endorsed the idea.

Hy-Line co-owner Murray Scudder said his private ferry company would like to increase passenger capacity by adding a high-speed boat on its Hyannis to Oak Bluffs trip. The current vessel servicing that route, the Lady Martha, would operate inter-Island service, increasing from the current one trip per day in the summer season to three trips per day.

He said the Hy-Line currently carries more than 80,000 passengers each year to Martha’s Vineyard, down from a peak of 141,000 passengers in 2002. The current trip between the two Islands carries about 14,000 to 15,000 passengers annually.

“We do not anticipate any increase in our current inter-Island fares,” Mr. Barker said. “What it will allow us to do is provide a day trip.”

Under the current schedule, the Hy-Line boat makes a single trip between the Islands, stopping only briefly on Nantucket.

Inter-Island service appealed to Claudette Robinson, who operates a small bed and breakfast in Oak Bluffs.

“I’m all for it,” she said. “I have guests that would love to go to Nantucket.”

Seastreak had also applied to operate a high-speed passenger ferry between New Bedford and Nantucket, either directly or with a stop in Oak Bluffs. But since submitting that application, Seastreak president Jim Barker said the ferry line has dropped its request for an Island stop on that route.

The Steamship Authority board discussed the expanded passenger service at their meeting on the Vineyard last week, and decided to expedite public hearings on the subject, with meetings also taking place this week in New Bedford, Hyannis and Nantucket.

Also last week, Falmouth governor Elizabeth Gladfelter asked the boat line to look into the idea of shifting more freight shipments from Woods Hole to New Bedford. While staff said a 2012 study showed dedicated freight service would be unprofitable, they said they would explore options and report back to the board.

The Port Council, made up of representatives from each port served by the Steamship Authority, will make recommendations on Hy-Line’s proposal next week. The SSA board will decide whether to grant licenses for the expanded service at its Nov. 17 meeting in Falmouth.