(April 18, 2022) The Steamship Authority will review a proposal by a New Bedford barge company Tuesday to bail out United Parcel Service, which missed the deadline for SSA truck reservations to Nantucket this summer.
The barge company, 41 North Offshore LLC, has asked the SSA for a license to make up to 70 cargo runs from New Bedford to the island between mid-May and mid-October, with each barge carrying three tractor- trailers.
UPS, which lost out on hundreds of ferry spaces it normally books to transport its trucks to the island from Hyannis when it missed the deadline, is already in discussions with the company, 41 North manager Jonah Mikutowicz said.
The SSA meeting will be held via Zoom, starting at 9:30 a.m. The Zoom ID is 874 1700 9198.
Rob Ranney, Nantucket’s representative on the boat line board of governors, said he supports the proposal in concept, but questioned the logistics.
“There are issues, like loading trucks onto an open barge and dragging it across the open sea. Adding a barge every day into the flow of traffic into the terminal, even though it’s at night, there could be spillover complications, the barge might not leave on time,” he said.
In order to accommodate UPS’ lack of reservations, the Steamship Authority has offered the shipper the remaining available space on its Nantucket ferries, and prioritized UPS trucks on its wait-lists. Nonetheless, UPS expects to be short 150 to 200 reservations, Mikutowicz said.
The UPS service is part of a larger 41 North proposal aimed at gauging interest in barge runs between Nantucket and New Bedford that could supplement existing SSA freight boats from Hyannis. The company characterized the service as a “last resort,” but cited increased demand from freight-haulers unable to book SSA reservations as making it worth exploring.
“SSA ferries are very full. Our hope is that this service will show that tug and barge service is a viable transportation alternative. The interest has primarily been from construction operations looking to get equipment and supplies to the island on short notice, that can’t be accommodated by the Steamship Authority,” Mikutowicz said.
Should it be granted a license, 41 North would transport the UPS tractor-trailers by the 130-by-40-foot open-deck barge Thing 2.
The tug and barge would travel 52 miles between New Bedford and Nantucket, compared to around 28 miles from Hyannis. The trip would take approximately eight hours, leaving New Bedford at 6 p.m. and arriving on Nantucket at 2 a.m. Departure from Nantucket would be at 7:30 a.m.
The barges would carry no passengers. UPS would meet the trucks and trailers at the dock to load and unload from the barge, according to its application to the SSA. No SSA employees would need to be at the dock when the barge arrived, and no trucks or trailers would be staged at the Nantucket terminal, Mikutowicz said.
“41N has extensive experience operating tugs and barges between New Bedford and Nantucket, including delivering modular houses and loose bulk aggregate (gravel and sand) to the SSA’s Nantucket Terminal. 41N has historically averaged one to two barge deliveries per week, but currently is averaging three to four barge deliveries per week to the terminal,” according to its application to the SSA.
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