Freight ferry service between New Bedford and the Vineyard could be a thing of the future but will cost millions and involve numerous complicated planning steps and operational changes, an internal study released by the Steamship Authority this week said.

The 37-page preliminary feasibility study was made public at the monthly SSA meeting in New Bedford Tuesday.

Ferrying freight between the Vineyard and New Bedford came back on the table for discussion last year at the request of the Falmouth and New Bedford SSA governors. In Falmouth there is ongoing concern about traffic on the Woods Hole Road, while in New Bedford there are perceived economic benefits from a new ferry service.

But any new service will not come cheaply or simply, the SSA report found. The report outlines several alternatives for seasonal freight service, including licensing a private carrier, using a so-called bare-boat charter, and using a “spare” freight vessel that the SSA will have on hand once the new ferry Woods Hole comes into service.

The service would involve costly changes in crewing schedules as well as overall schedule changes, the report found. And building a new freight terminal facility in New Bedford would cost $10 to $15 million — a cost the SSA should not subsidize, according to the report. “The staff does not believe that the Steamship Authority should bear the cost of constructing or maintaining the freight ferry terminal in New Bedford that would be necessary to provide the service, or should otherwise subsidize the cost of the service,” the report said. “Nor should the Steamship Authority rate payers be responsible for the additional operation costs that will be necessary to provide freight service from New Bedford, when freight service can continue to be provided from Woods Hole.”

Currently, large truck freight haulers pay $260 for a one-way trip from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven, the report said. Using a similar cost structure, the staff offered a rough estimate of at least $579 for a one way trip from New Bedford.

The study is still preliminary and will not be finished for several months, SSA general manager Wayne Lamson said this week.

In the short term, management is recommending that the boat line pursue a proposal from Ralph Packer to provide a barge and tug service to ferry freight between New Bedford and the Vineyard. Mr. Packer owns an extensive marine transportation business in Vineyard Haven and also has a waterfront facility in New Bedford. The boat line will also explore whether there are any private companies willing to provide the freight service under a license arrangement. And managers said they intend to work with the Cape Cod Commission and Martha’s Vineyard Commission to explore possible state funding for a New Bedford ferry terminal.

Vineyard SSA governor Marc Hanover said he remains skeptical about the viability of New Bedford freight service.

“I was initially opposed to doing it at all,” Mr. Hanover told the Gazette by telephone following the meeting this week. “The bottom line is, who’s going to pay for it.” He continued:

“It’s three times the distance, three times the cost. Whether there is a market for people who want to go to New Bedford and pay a higher price, I don’t know.”

The SSA ran a pilot freight program between the Vineyard and New Bedford in 2000; two years later the service was later discontinued because it was financially unfeasible and the SSA was unable to secure an agreement with the city of New Bedford for use of its state pier.

In other boat line news this week, Mr. Lamson said the new ferry is scheduled to be delivered to Fairhaven from the Louisiana shipyard where it is being built in early June. The ferry is set to go into service on June 17, he said.