As Fuel Costs Skyrocket, SSA Raises Fares
Mike Seccombe

Fares for both cars and passengers on Steamship Authority ferries will go up beginning May 1 as a result of soaring world energy prices.

Passenger fare increases on both the Vineyard and Nantucket routes were recommended by boat line management at the April governors’ meeting in New Bedford on Tuesday. The fare hikes are expected to raise an extra $1.5 million in revenue to offset fuel price increases.

But after a long discussion, boat line governors called for raising vehicle rates as well, to provide a further financial cushion of some $575,000.

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Rental Cars Drive SSA, Packer to Court
Mike Seccombe

The Steamship Authority appears likely to go to court to stop a Vineyard barge operator from bringing rental cars to and from the Island for the summer tourist season.

SSA general manager Wayne Lamson told a meeting of the boat line governors on Tuesday that repeated warnings to the barge operator had gone unheeded, and that any further shipments would bring legal action.

Ralph Packer, who owns Tisbury Towing and Transportation, said yesterday he believed the company was entitled to continue the practice.

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SSA Sells Ferry to Venezuelan Company in $3.9 Million Deal

The Steamship Authority has sold the long-troubled ferry Flying Cloud to a Venezuelan company for $3.9 million.

Boat line general manager Wayne C. Lamson announced Wednesday that Gran Cacique II bought the high-speed vessel, which ran on the Hyannis-Nantucket route from 2000 to 2006.

The SSA paid nearly $8 million for the Flying Cloud, which was built by Derector Shipyards in Mamaroneck, N.Y. The boat line placed the vessel in service to compete against Hy-Line in the Hyannis-Nantucket high-speed ferry market.

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Law to Protect Right Whales May Hamper Ferry Operations
Mike Seccombe

Legislation designed to protect migrating right whales could have an unintended, devastating impact on ferry services to the Vineyard and Nantucket, the Steamship Authority has warned.

Under draft rules attached to the legislation, any sighting of a right whale would trigger the imposition of a strict, 10-knot speed limit on ships more than 65 feet long, operating within a so-called “dynamic management area” with a 36-mile radius, for 15 days from the time of the sighting.

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Surprise Terminal Teardown
Mike Seccombe

If you happened to be in Oak Bluffs on Tuesday and were surprised to see the Steamship Authority terminal building in the process of being flattened, you were not alone. Also surprised, and dismayed, were town officials.

For the SSA did not have the town’s permission to do it. The conservation commission had issued an order permitting the renovation and expansion of the existing structure, not the demolition of it.

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Boatline Keeps Budget in Black; Terminal to Be Ready in April
Mike Seccombe

The Steamship Authority is on track to finish a difficult year in reasonably good financial shape, the last board meeting of 2009 was told last week.

As of the end of October, the boat line’s net operating income was almost $12 million, some $2.8 million better than forecast.

The monthly business summary continued the good-in-parts trend of recent months: revenues were sharply down, but so were costs.

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Conflicts of Interest Arise for SSA
Mike Seccombe

The knock-on effects of the financial crisis continue to manifest themselves in diverse and unforeseen ways. This week they paralyzed the board of governors of the Steamship Authority and forced them to the cost and bother of having to convene a special meeting.

To explain, you must start with one of the giant casualties of the crisis, Bank of America.

You will recall that this bank got into deep trouble a year or so back, first because of sub-prime mortgages and then because of its shotgun marriage to the even-more-troubled Merrill Lynch.

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Boatline Traffic Drops Sharply
Mike Seccombe

Passenger traffic to the Vineyard on Steamship Authority ferries fell to its lowest level in more than a decade in March, more than 11 per cent below that for the same month last year.

Not since 1997, said SSA general manager Wayne Lamson, had fewer people visited for the month. And it was not only passenger numbers which plunged. The number of trucks coming and going — another key indicator of economic activity — was down almost eight per cent on the previous March.

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Packer Agrees: No Rental Cars
Mike Seccombe

In the face of legal action by the Steamship Authority, Ralph Packer has finally agreed to stop the unlicensed transport of rental cars to Martha’s Vineyard on his barges for the summer tourist trade.

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SSA Goes to Court, Claiming Mr. Packer Lacks Proper License
Mike Seccombe

A longstanding dispute between the Steamship Authority and Ralph Packer’s barge operation over the annual transport of rental cars to the Island for the summer appears set to be fought out in court before this year’s tourist season.

For several years now, Mr. Packer’s Tisbury Towing and Transportation has moved cars for the Hertz rental company to and from the Island, much to the chagrin of the SSA, which has a legislated monopoly over the movement of people, vehicles and freight to and from the Islands.

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