Is The Steamship Authority About To Buy A New Boat?

Written By: Jason Graziadei | Photography By: Cary Hazlegrove, NantucketStock.com

With unprecedented demand for Steamship Authority reservations, some island residents have been clamoring for the boat line to add new trips or vessels to the fleet. And now it appears the Steamship could indeed be exploring the addition of a new boat. 

The Steamship’s Board of Governors met Tuesday morning, and on the executive session agenda was the following item: “Discussion of Potential Vessel Acquisition.” But general manager Bob Davis said at the conclusion of the public portion of the meeting that the item could be removed, as it was not going to be discussed. 

Still, we checked in with Rob Ranney, Nantucket’s representative on the Board of Governors, to ask about the potential for a new boat to be added to the Steamship fleet. 

“I can’t talk specifically about it and I’m not sure why it was put on or put off, but in general terms the Steamship is always open to adding vessels if it meets the need and if there’s money to purchase it,” Ranney said. “We’re so specialized and the route is so specialized, it’s really hard to find other similar boats that don’t require major modifications anywhere in the world. So if something comes up and a vessel is put in reserve from someone else’s fleet and may fit ours, that kind of thing is always looked at. When we’re getting to the point of building a vessel or buying one, we do an assessment of the current fleet to determine whether it’s meeting needs or if an older vessel might be good to cycle out. That process is underway now.”

Still, Ranney said, even adding a new boat wouldn’t necessarily mean additional trips and capacity available on the Nantucket route. Given the Steamship’s staffing constraints, union bargaining agreements and other factors, there is a lot more involved in creating an additional trip than simply acquiring a new boat. 

“If we did have a boat come in today, a new boat, whether we got one from Venezuela or somewhere else, to fit that into the schedule would be difficult,” Ranney said. “It’s not as easy as people think – just add it in, staff it and go. It’s a juggling act. We’re severely limited by the time our route takes: roundtrip is 5.5 or 6 hours. To plug in a boat that will fit into this schedule that is already pretty full, it’s a challenge. It’s possible, but not very easy.”

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