With cash running low — and saying its very mission is at stake — the Steamship Authority is urgently seeking a financial bailout from the commonwealth, marking a first in the modern history of the state-chartered ferry line.

Citing steep financial losses due to an unprecedented decline in ridership during the Covid-19 pandemic, the SSA announced in a press release Friday that general manager Robert Davis has sent a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker urgently requesting financial assistance.

“The Steamship Authority will not be able to meet its statutory obligations to provide for the transportation of people and goods to the Islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket beyond May 31, without financial relief,” the press release said. It also said:

“The Steamship Authority funds nearly 100 percent of its annual cost of service through its fare box collections and, unlike nearly every other public transit agency in the country, receives no annual state subsidy or funding. Although the Authority’s enabling act includes a method by which certain funding shortfalls can be assessed to the five port communities it serves at the end of each calendar year, such an assessment has not been made since 1962.

“Nor, in this case, can the Authority wait until the end of the year for aid.”

Both the press release and letter describe the steep operating losses the boat line has sustained since the coronavirus outbreak began a month ago, including traffic declines between 70 and 85 per cent, nearly $3 million in revenue that cannot be recouped, and ongoing losses of $1 million per week.

The SSA annual operating budget is around $100 million. The boat line annually carries about three million passengers, 475,000 cars and 195,000 trucks between the two Islands.

“The Authority is the lifeline for those Islands, providing the only year-round passenger, automobile and truck ferry service delivering food, medicine, fuel and numerous other consumables and products from the mainland,” Mr. Davis wrote in the letter to Governor Baker.

The four-page letter to the governor also outlines steps that have been taken to reduce costs since the pandemic began, including the elimination of some 1,400 trips, 114 employee layoffs and the suspension of seasonal hiring, which usually begins in April.

“In order for the Authority to continue to maintain safe, efficient, economical and essential ferry boat transportation to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, we respectfully request the commonwealth to assist the Authority with its cash reserves in any fiscally responsible manner possible,” Mr. Davis wrote.

In the letter he goes on to outline the fact that under its enabling act, the SSA is only allowed to hold a limited amount of cash on hand to pay monthly expenses, and by law is not permitted to have a rainy day fund.

As a possible remedy, Mr. Davis suggests the Municipal Liquidity Facility — a procedure authorized by the Federal Reserve last week that allows the commonwealth to apply for eligible notes and use proceeds to manage cash flow impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The request for state funding has the backing of Cape and Islands state Sen. Julian Cyr, according the press release.

“Reliable passenger and freight ferry service makes modern life possible on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, Mr. Cyr said in the press release. “We must do everything we can to ensure that the Steamship Authority is able operate during the pandemic and when we are able to recover; it truly is our lifeline.”