The Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority is a public instrumentality created by the
Massachusetts legislature to provide for adequate transportation of persons and necessaries of life for the islands of Nantucket and
Martha's Vineyard. The enabling legislation empowers the Authority to acquire, maintain and operate a boat line between the mainland
ports of Woods Hole (Falmouth) and Hyannis (Barnstable) on the one hand, and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, on the other.
The Authority's statutory mission is to serve as the "Lifeline to the Islands" and it is the only ferry service for the Islands that carries
both passengers and vehicles, including commercial freight trucks.
The Authority's enabling act further provides licensing authority to the Authority to regulate the carriage of
freight by water by private operators between the Massachusetts mainland and the Islands, as well as to regulate vessels certified by the U.S.
Coast Guard to carry in excess of forty passengers in their operation between the Massachusetts mainland and the Islands. Such provisions,
however, do not apply to so-called "grandfathered" services operating prior to May 1973. The Authority currently licenses private ferry
operators to provide passenger service between New Bedford and Oak Bluffs (seasonal), New Bedford and Vineyard Haven (year-round), Falmouth
and Edgartown (seasonal), Hyannis and Oak Bluffs (seasonal), Hyannis and Nantucket (both seasonal and year-round), and Harwichport and
The Authority has its principal office in Woods Hole, Massachusetts with ferry terminals in Woods Hole and Hyannis
on Cape Cod, terminals at Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs on the island of Martha's Vineyard, and a terminal on the island of Nantucket.
The Authority owns and operates year-round parking lots in Woods Hole and Hyannis, and operates seasonal off-site parking lots in
Falmouth, Bourne and Hyannis as well. The Authority also has a vessel maintenance facility in Fairhaven and a receiving warehouse in
Falmouth, and it rents property in Edgartown and Mashpee for its two reservation offices.
The Authority serves a complex clientele including year-round residents of the Islands who depend on the
ferries for all commerce and transportation to and from the mainland, a significant seasonal population and tourist group, and the
communities that serve as ports through which all traffic to the Islands pass. Each group has special needs and points of view that
impact the Authority and how it does business.
The popularity of the Islands for both residential and recreational purposes has been reflected in increasing
traffic and demands for service. The Authority currently operates nine vessels (including a high-speed passenger-only ferry) carrying
passengers, automobiles and freight trucks. The Authority employs 750 people (peak season) with a workforce that is almost totally
unionized, with eight bargaining units represented by four different unions.
The Authority's budget is supported by operating revenues of around $80 million. Since 1962, the Authority
has had only four annual operating deficits, and it has not had to assess the taxpayers of the participating communities for monetary support
since 1963. Additionally, the Authority has an on-time performance record of nearly 100 percent, with
service interruptions generally caused only by inclement weather.
The Authority is governed by a five-member board: A Nantucket resident appointed by the Nantucket County
Commissioners; a Martha's Vineyard resident appointed by the Dukes County Commissioners; a Falmouth resident appointed by the Falmouth
Selectmen; a Barnstable resident appointed by the Barnstable Town Council; and a New Bedford resident appointed by the Mayor of New
Bedford, with the approval of the New Bedford City Council. Each of the Island board members has 35% of the members' combined vote;
and each of the mainland board members has 10% of the members' combined vote.
Current Board Members
Robert F. Ranney
Robert L. O'Brien
Marc N. Hanover
Robert S. Marshall
John A. Tierney
The Authority also has a seven-member advisory board known as the Port Council, whose members are appointed
by the municipal authorities of the following communities: Barnstable; Fairhaven; Falmouth; Nantucket; New Bedford; Oak Bluffs; and
Current Port Council Members
Robert V. Huss
Robert R. Jones
George J. Balco
Frank J. Rezendes
Nathaniel E. Lowell
Edward C. Anthes-Washburn
S. Eric Asendorf