With six months of 2020 travel data on the books, the Steamship Authority is still forecasting a $20 to $25 million deficit for the year. The boat line’s net operating loss through June is nearly $20.2 million, more than $10.2 million higher than the boat line had anticipated, general manager Robert Davis told the SSA board of governors at their monthly meeting Tuesday morning.

The meeting also saw the board approve a 2021 schedule that includes a longstanding but controversial 5:30 a.m. summer freight boat from Woods Hole. The vote was split 4-1, with the Falmouth governor registering her strong objection and calling for better study of the issue, and a toning down of the rhetoric coming from the Vineyard.

June was the first month since the Covid-19 pandemic began in March that operating revenues outpaced operating costs, by about $2.6 million — $1.46 million less than called for in the budget, Mr. Davis said.

Ridership has strengthened over the summer, treasurer/comptroller Mark Rozum said. Preliminary numbers for July show a net operating revenue of $6 million, and advance vehicle reservations in August have reached 105 per cent of the 2019 total, he said.

The late start of schools due to the pandemic appears to be influencing the strong August traffic, Mr. Rozum said.

“It’s kind of extending the summer,” he said.

In July, passenger revenue was off by about $1.7 million compared with 2019, while truck revenue was off by about $100,000, Mr. Rozum said. Auto traffic was flat.

“We’re still projecting that $20 to $25 million dollar loss for year end,” he said.

Nevertheless signaling a steady financial ship, the boat line has earned enough to secure bond payments due in September and next March, the treasurer said.

Governors heard a report on mask compliance, which continues to be a problem aboard ferries, with passengers regularly removing or dislodging their masks after boarding despite widespread signs reminding travelers that face coverings are mandatory throughout the trip.

State troopers on duty aboard the boats have been called more than once to speak with mask-resisting passengers, Mr. Davis said.

“We did have an incident where local police were notified as well,” he added.

New Bedford governor Moira Tierney suggested the boat line consider sanctions against passengers who flout the mask rule by barring them from future travel, as some airlines have done.

“We should think about a policy that we publish and we post that unless there’s a medical excuse, we take the issue of mask wearing seriously and to the extent that someone is violating our policy there may be sanctions,” Ms. Tierney said.

In other business Tuesday, Mr. Rozum demonstrated the new contactless electronic tickets, which have been in trial on the Nantucket high-speed ferry. The new system allows passengers to board using a technology called near field communication (NFC) which works similarly to the RFID cards that have replaced the boat line’s old multi-ticket books.

Buying the contactless tickets is also a speedy process, Mr. Rozum said. “I was able to purchase a ticket and have it on my phone in 30 seconds, soup to nuts,” he said.

The system is now in its quality-control phase and expected to go live later this week. Passengers can use Apple Pay, Google Pay or another payment method to buy tickets, and if they wish to refund them they can do that on the application as well without phoning the reservation department, Mr. Rozum said.

“This also will work from a desktop, laptop or other device,” he said, adding that purchasers can also email tickets to others.

“Can I just give you 20 bucks and get a ticket?” asked Barnstable governor Robert Jones. The answer was yes: the new application is not replacing other types of ticket sales, simply adding an option, Mr. Rozum said.

The board split twice on votes during the meeting, held as a webinar on Zoom.

Falmouth governor Kathryn Wilson voted nay on approving the 2021 schedule due to the controversial 5:30 a.m. summer freight boat out of Woods Hole. Citing noise from large trucks heading toward the terminal, residents along the route have long opposed the early freight run.

Truckers and Martha’s Vineyard residents say the early boat is essential to bringing food and other necessities to the Island.

On Tuesday, Ms. Wilson expressed concern at the tone of letters some Island selectmen have written the Steamship Authority in support of the early boat.

“The Oak Bluffs selectmen refer to yet another request,” and characterizes it as mean-spirited and abusive of the public process,” Ms. Wilson said of one letter dated June 12, in which the selectmen objected to the boat line holding another public hearing on the issue.

“Going into conversations about how to remedy something with that kind of attitude isn’t helpful,” Ms. Wilson said.

“We’re making our decision based on who tells the most compelling narrative, and in short, it sounds as if the 5:30 boat is needed because of the summer traffic demands on the Island,” she said, adding: “Would it really make any difference? If you’ve got gridlock traffic, does it make any difference when you add more to it. Maybe the Vineyard needs to find a different way of dealing with the traffic.”

Ms. Wilson said she wants to see the recently-formed traffic task force and working group, both made up of Island, Falmouth and SSA representatives, to come up with suggestions.

“I would really like to see some changes made,” she said.

Governors also split on approving a $137,771 change order from Woods Hole terminal contractor Cashman Inc., caused by the need for heavier chains connecting the dolphins — large flat bumpers that help guide ferries into their slips — to the heavy monopoles that hold the dolphins in place.

Ms. Tierney was the objector. “I continue to be troubled by the magnitude of the Cashman change orders,” she said.

Board chairman Jim Malkin, who represents the Vineyard, also expressed worry. “My big concern, overarching, personally is our management of Cashman and our other contractors,” he said.

Barnstable governor Robert Jones had another view.

“I have more faith in the system and the people we’ve hired than I’m hearing,” he said. The vote again was 4-1 in favor of approving the payment.

The board also reviewed fees and change orders by BIA.Studio, the architectural firm redesigning the Woods Hole Terminal, finding nothing objectionable.

“They have treated us very fairly over the years. They have not increased their hourly rates as much as allowed in the contract,” said SSA attorney Steve Sayers, who studied the firm’s billing going back to 2014.

“There have been some issues but I think they are relatively minor,” he added. “Their markups have not exceeded the amount provided for under the contract.”

At their next meeting on Sept. 22, governors will return to the topic of the new ticket building, which has been sidelined by the pandemic.

Director of marine operations Mark Amundsen reported on the progress of work on the freight vessel Katama, which is expected to leave drydock at Thames Shipyard in New London, Conn. August 31.

“We’re getting very close to the end,” Mr. Amundsen said of the overhaul, which includes all the ferry’s critical equipment including generators, pumps and other mechanical systems as well as heavy-duty marine coatings designed to preserve the steel hull and decking.

“This is to protect against steel renewal,” said Mr. Amundsen, adding that while such coatings add costs, they make boats last longer by preventing steel corrosion.

“You replace steel or you apply coatings,” he said.