Repairs to one of the Steamship Authority’s slips in Vineyard Haven are on track to wrap up next month, ferry line officials said this week. 

At the Steamship Authority’s advisory port council meeting Tuesday, representatives heard about the progress, as well as the ferry Woods Hole’s recent crash into the other working slip. 

On March 25, the Woods Hole ferry hit the open Vineyard Haven slip during a storm, causing damage to the vessel’s rub rail. A temporary fix for the ferry was approved by the Coast Guard and it is back in service, though it will need periodic inspections.

Steamship chief operating office Mark Higgins said the crash wasn’t hard and there was no human error. 

“We did a review of the video to see how the vessel came in and it looks like a normal docking,” he said.

The other slip has been out of commission since March so the Steamship Authority could replace a finger pier there. Work on that slip is scheduled to conclude on May 3, Steamship officials said Tuesday.

Having the port down to only one slip has caused ferry backups and schedule delays. In an attempt to alleviate the logjams, the Seastreak New Bedford ferry service has approached Oak Bluffs about returning to that town’s harbor earlier than anticipated and the Steamship Authority is readying its Oak Bluffs terminal to potentially open in a little over a week. 

“We’re working to get it open as soon as we can,” Mr. Higgins said. 

The port council also heard about the status of two of the three new freight boats purchased in 2022, with one of the ferries potentially being ready for service on the Nantucket route by June. 

A shipyard in Mobile, Ala. is currently working on two of the ferries, the Barnstable and Aquinnah, and some of the last rounds of work to convert the former oil rig vessels are expected to be completed in the coming months. If the Barnstable’s refitting is completed as scheduled for the end of May, the Steamship anticipates it would start plying the region’s waters around June 17. 

The Steamship Authority purchased the three vessels to replace parts of the ferry line’s aging fleet. 

The Alabama shipyard has been prioritizing getting the Barnstable ferry converted first, with the Aquinnah ferry afterwards. The Aquinnah is about two weeks behind the Barnstable, which could create a schedule crunch for retrieving the boat from Mobile during the busy summer season. 

The Steamship Authority may have to hire a service to sail the boat to the Cape and Islands, Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis said at the meeting.

“We won’t have the luxury of being able to take multiple crews off to send them down south and transport the boat over an eight-day period,” he said. 

Once the boats arrive, Steamship crews will have to practice with them, learning how to load and unload them. Some practice on Nantucket has already begun, using cones to mark out the boat’s dimensions on land.

“There will be a learning curve,” Mr. Davis said. 

The total cost for the boats, including a third freight vessel, comes to about $20 million apiece. 

“We should be getting three vessels for essentially what we would spend to build one new boat,” Mr. Davis said. 

Eventually, the Sankaty freight ferry is expected to be sent to the Steamship’s Fairhaven yard as a backup boat, and the Steamship is considering declaring the Katama and Gay Head ferries as surplus in an attempt to sell them. 

“We’re looking at retaining the Sankaty as the spare, spare vessel,” Mr. Davis said. “But we continue to evaluate that.”