The Steamship Authority is expected to confirm new premises for its Island booking office within the next few weeks.

Boat line general manager Wayne Lamson told the board of governors at their meeting in Hyannis this week that SSA management was considering four potential sites for the relocation of the office, currently operating at the airport business park.

The lease on those premises expires at the end of January and the building’s owners, Island Professional Realty LLC, had told the SSA they have other plans for the space, and would not renew it.

Mr. Lamson said two of the potential alternative sites were also at the airport business park. The third was in Edgartown.

In addition, the boat line was continuing talks with airport manager Sean Flynn about the possibility of getting counter and office space in the terminal itself.

“At the moment I feel confident that we will be able to recommend to the board at their Sept. 20 meeting that we will continue to have a reservation office or counter space for in-person reservations on Martha’s Vineyard after the lease at our current location expires in January 2012,” he said.

This is good news for the mostly year-round residents who use the office. Consideration had been given to closing it because of declining custom over recent years.

In 2001, there were 47,000 over-the-counter transactions. That number declined to just over 30,000 in 2006, and last year it fell to under 18,000.

The office also handles some phone sales, which also have declined, but not so sharply, and deals with Islander issues relating to their profile numbers, for which statistics are not kept.

The operation costs about $300,000 a year to operate, although most of that expense is in staff costs, and there was never any plan to cut staff.

When the matter was first publicly raised at the SSA’s June meeting, some board members seemed inclined to close it.

In particular, the board chairman and Falmouth representative Robert Marshall was strongly in favor of shuttering the operation to save money.

At last month’s meeting, however, he changed his position, and it was decided to seek alternative sites.

Management revealed another way to save money at this week’s meeting.

They proposed, and the board approved, a novel way of conducting the scheduled inspection of the hull of SSA’s largest vessel, the Island Home.

For the cost of just $24,600 Northwest Diving Services Inc. of Newport, R.I., will inspect the hull in the water, rather than bringing the boat into dry dock, at a cost more than 10 times as much.

Mr. Lamson explained that a diver would first perform a “pre-inspection dive survey,” in preparation for a U.S. Coast Guard-attended UWILD (Underwater Hull Inspection in Lieu of Dry-docking) survey.

The diver would then conduct a “video-enhanced UWILD survey” for presentation to the Coast Guard, and will also conduct “nondestructive” testing of the hull at the direction of a Coast Guard inspector.

The procedure will take place at the Fairhaven maintenance facility in November, he said.

If the Coast Guard is happy with the outcome, the vessel’s next hull examination, which otherwise would have had to take place next January, at a cost of around $250,000, will be deferred until November 2014.

Meanwhile, next month another ferry, the Martha’s Vineyard, will go into traditional dry dock at Colonna’s Shipyard Inc. in Norfolk, Va., and also have some equipment upgrades, at a cost of just under $900,000.