Based on figures for the first half of 2020, the Steamship Authority is projecting a $25 to $26 million operating deficit for the year, general manager Robert Davis said Tuesday.

The 2020 deficit was estimated using actual numbers for the first five months of the year and preliminary numbers for June, Mr. Davis told governors at their monthly meeting held online Tuesday morning

The pandemic hit the state-chartered boat line hard beginning in mid-March, when traffic and operating revenues crashed after a strong first two months of the year. The bleak picture continued through April and well into May, but by Memorial Day the picture began to improve.

While May ended in the red by about $878,000, June saw a solid rebound in traffic and revenues, Mr. Davis said, with ferries on the Martha’s Vineyard route running at 90 per cent capacity on weekdays and 100 per cent on weekends.

“That’s a far better situation than other carriers are experiencing at this point,” continued Mr. Davis, who said some other U.S. ferry lines he has been in touch with are reporting 60 to 65 per cent of their normal passenger traffic.

“I think that speaks volumes for the local region,” Mr. Davis said.

The SSA’s projected net income for June is about $1.6 million, boat line treasurer Mark Rozum told the board.

“We had forecast about $4 million [in net income], but we will be in the positive for the month of June,” he said.

Overall, Mr. Davis said, passenger traffic is down about 31 per cent over last year, while car traffic is essentially flat and truck traffic is down about five per cent.

“We are averaging just under 5,000 passengers a day fewer than a year ago,” he said, estimating that will add up to about 150,000 fewer passengers this month than in past Julys.

“These are not small numbers,” Mr. Davis said.

Whether the five port towns will be liable to pay any year-end deficit remains up in the air. A bill to relieve the towns of the responsibility (which is spelled out in the boat line charter) cleared the state legislature this week but still awaits a signoff from Gov. Charlie Baker.

Meanwhile, the SSA ended 2019 comfortably in the black, according to the recently-completed financial audit now posted on the SSA website. A public meeting with the auditors will be announced soon, Mr. Rozum said.

After reducing ferry service for much of the summer, the SSA will go to a full operating schedule from August 10 to Sept. 9 to accommodate the annual exodus of seasonal residents, Mr. Davis said.

In other business Tuesday, Mr. Davis asked for, and received, the board’s approval to modify the boat line’s medical transportation policy.

Previously, only vehicles carrying patients were eligible for expedited travel. The updated policy will add immediate family members and caregivers who are driving off Island to bring a patient home after treatment.

“We feel that if we make that adjustment . . . it will improve the policy,” Mr. Davis said.

Also Tuesday, the board agreed to modify its contract with Centerplate, the catering company that has been the concessionaire aboard SSA ferries since 1993, to waive a $720,000 minimum guarantee for its services.

In past years, Centerplate’s revenues have exceeded the contractual minimum, Mr. Davis said. But on-board concessions have been closed since the pandemic took hold, and there are no current plans to resume food and beverage service.

“We’re not prepared . . . to reopen the lunch counters,” he said. “It sends a mixed message regarding masks.”

Ferry passengers are being asked to wear face masks throughout the voyage, with those who decline directed to the outside decks, Mr. Davis said.

“We don’t have the ability to fine people for enforcement,” he said.

“There are instances which there are state police aboard the vessels at various times . . . they’ve said they would be happy to assist us in that regard,” Mr. Davis continued.

The boat line’s rigorous Covid-19 cleaning protocol continues, Mr. Davis said, with vessels cleaned between each trip and extra crews performing deeper cleaning nightly.

Ridership aboard the parking shuttle buses has been reduced to 50 per cent of the vehicles’ rated capacity, Mr. Davis said, emphasizing that the capacity is greater than the number of seats available.

“Even 50 per cent is still more than the number of seats on the vehicle,” he said.

The SSA recently notified its drivers and ferry crews that unmasked passengers may not board buses or boats, but Mr. Davis said he was not aware of anyone being barred for refusing to wear a face mask.

“I will admit it’s a challenge,” Mr. Davis said. “I’ve been out in the terminals . . . I have seen our employees wearing the masks and mentioning to our customers that they need to be wearing a mask, but I’m sure there’s times when those efforts go unnoticed.”

Board members heard a report on the Woods Hole terminal reconstruction project, set to resume Sept. 10. Mr. Davis said about $16 million remains in the contract with Cashman, Inc., which is performing the shoreside work.

The controversial ticket building, which is being designed by Boston architects BIA Studio, will be on next month’s agenda for governors, he said.

Director of marine operations Mark Amundsen briefly updated the board on the freight boat Katama, currently in dry dock at Thames Shipyard in New London, Conn. The vessel is having its generators overhauled and underwater work performed, Mr. Amundsen said.

Work on the boat line’s safety and quality management system, a key recommendation from the 2018 study of boat line operations by consultants HMS/Glosten, is resuming after a period of postponement due to the global pandemic, Mr. Davis told the board.

“We are going to have to extend the timeline of the project, because we’ve lost four months now,” he said.

Strategic planning, another top HMS recommendation, remains on hold for the time being. “We’ll be looking at a later date to be addressing that,” Mr. Davis said.

Governors approved the proposed 2021 operating schedule for Nantucket and a winter/spring schedule for the Vineyard route.

In May, a petition signed by 58 Falmouth residents resulted in a public hearing on the SSA’s 5:30 a.m. summer freight run from Woods Hole, which neighbors have long opposed. Trucking companies, Vineyard businesses and residents have supported the early boat, saying it’s needed to complete deliveries before Island roads become congested with daily traffic.

Although a summer schedule including the early run was not approved this week, VIneyard governor and board chairman James Malkin, appeared to suggest it likely will pass in an upcoming meeting.

“I don’t see where further delay is really going to change the positions of the people affected by the 5:30 a.m. boat, one way or another,” Mr. Malkin said.