Nat Lowell On The Boston Globe’s Steamship Authority Story

This letter was written in response to the Boston Globe’s front page story on the Steamship Authority published on Sunday, Aug. 29th.

Good morning Ms Koh,

As Jim Malkin said, my name is Nat Lowell, Nantucket  Port Council member since 2004 and very much familiar in SSA affairs as a citizen and from the day to day portion of my job function since 1987.  I have a vast understanding of the SSA historically over time as well as circa 1998 when the original movement from the city of New Bedford cast similar arguments that you hear today.

In the end, the SSA, as imperfect as it may be perceived to be, is in fact an incredible institution that receives no public monies, that continues to operate today as it was designed to do in 1960. Adjusted for inflation, any experienced  government official would blush looking at what the SSA is able to accomplish each year without subsidy.

The Islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are communities that operate like tiny countries in their own individual ways based upon the degree of access and cost of living and services. Lives here are not at all just about the summer glitter of the wealthy and the scattered handful of rich and famous each island possesses. We are and have been simply parts of the Cape for decades since the Cape Cod bridges were constructed during the Depression. We are parts of a larger symptom of many moving parts resulting from the growing attraction to life on the Cape and yes, the Islands as well.

It wasn’t long ago that much of Nantucket’s vehicle traffic originated from Woods Hole. Yes, imagine that today? Hyannis is 30 minutes closer than Woods Hole by slow boat which made life a bit easier here. The Vineyard trip is 40 minutes and ours is two hours and 10 minutes. Those distances are baked into the dynamics of the costs and number of vessels needed to operate the SSA efficiently throughout the 12 month schedule with maintenance, dry dockings and vessels that are able to operate on both islands.

The political noise from Cape communities is nothing new. The arguments are basically the same but framed differently to coincide with the times we live in. The hard truth is that when someone new gets appointed to the Board or Port Council (formerly the Finance Advisory Board) they discover how the Steamship actually functions on paper and realize how important this unique institution is not only to islands but to private carriers, seasonal solvency and the many livelihoods that benefit from the SSA.

Kind regards,

Nat Lowell, Nantucket Port Council member.

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