Steamship Authority announces face covering policies

Posted: April 30, 2020

Steamship Authority implements face covering policies

Note: Consistent with Gov. Charles Baker’s May 1, 2020 order No. 31 (“Order Requiring Face Coverings In Public Places Where Social Distancing Is Not Possible”), the Steamship Authority will require the use of cloth face coverings at its landside facilities, shuttle buses and onboard its vessels, as Gov. Baker’s order specifically states “(a)ll persons are also required to wear masks or cloth face coverings when providing or using the services of any taxi, car, livery, ride-sharing, or similar service or any means of mass public transit, or while within an enclosed or semi-enclosed transit stop or waiting area.”

Although Gov. Baker’s order goes into effect Wednesday, May 6, 2020, cloth face coverings are now required on board Authority vessels as of the issuance of its April 30, 2020 memorandum stating as such. This policy is consistent with the executive order, and terminal and vessel personnel will work with those individuals who are exempt from the executive order to board and seat them appropriately.

FALMOUTH, Mass. (April 30, 2020) – After thorough investigation and consideration of best practices in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority has implemented new policies regarding the usage of cloth face coverings for its employees and customers. These new policies go into effect immediately.

All employees of the Authority are required to wear cloth face coverings in public settings, including maintenance facilities, terminals and vessels, where physical distancing measures (i.e. physical separation of 6 feet or greater) are difficult or, in some cases, impossible to maintain. The policy is consistent with recommendations from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Adherence to this policy will be ensured by the employees’ supervisors.

All passengers when boarding, disembarking and while onboard the Authority’s vessels are required to wear a cloth face coverings in interior passenger areas, including vessel freight decks. Passengers who choose to remain in their vehicles when boarding shall be required to remain inside their vehicles for the duration of the voyage if they do not possess a cloth face covering to wear outside of their vehicle.

Any passenger not utilizing a cloth face covering may have their travel affected in the following ways:

  • They may be queued for boarding onto the vessels separately from those passengers using a cloth face covering.
  • They may be directed to sit in a designated exterior seating area or another area as determined by the Port Captain or the master of the vessel.
  • They may be directed to travel on a different vessel voyage for same-day travel.
  • They may be directed to stay in a vehicle, if available, on the vessel’s freight deck.

Passengers are strongly encouraged to wear their cloth face covering on terminal property where physical distancing measures are difficult or impossible to maintain.

Due to supply deficiencies, cloth face coverings will not be provided for customers at this time, so anyone traveling on the Authority’s vessels is advised to obtain their own cloth face covering prior to their trip.

These changes were communicated Thursday, April 30, 2020 to Authority staff for immediate implementation.  Shoreside and vessel personnel will communicate the policies directly to passengers as they board, and additional signage and communications will be introduced in the coming days.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has strongly suggested, but not mandated, mask wearing in public during the pandemic; therefore, many public transit agencies across the state, including the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, have not made mask usage a condition of travel.

 “The Authority’s opinion has been, and continues to be, that it cannot legally deny travel to customers who are not wearing a face covering without an executive order from a state or federal authority,” said General Manager Robert B. Davis. “By directing those customers who choose not to wear a face covering to designated areas away from other passengers, we feel we have found a practice that will provide a balance between our obligation to provide travel to and from the islands and our sincere desire to keep everyone as safe as possible.”

Guidance on use of face coverings