Steamship Authority buying two OSVs for conversion to freight ferries

September 8, 2022 GENERAL

The Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority has announced its intention to purchase two Offshore Supply Vessels (OSVs) from Hornbeck Offshore Services (HOS) of Covington, La., for conversion to freight ferries. The sister vessels — the 2009-built HOS Lode Star and 2008-built HOS Shooting Star — are 73-meter long 240 class OSVs.

They are being acquired to replace the Steamship Authority’s aging open deck freight ferries, the 1981-buillt M/V Gay Head and 1982-built M/V Katama. Those, too, started off life as sister offshore service vessels. In 1988, the Steamship Authority converted the Katama to ferry service, adding a rounded stern to fit loading ramps and a small passenger area. Ten years later, the Katama received an additional upgrade as a fifty-foot midsection was added along with more powerful EMD engines. Acquired a year after the Katama, the Gay Head also received a fifty-foot midsection upgrade, as well as a new engine upgrade in the mid 1990s.

Both are now showing their age.

Just last week the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette reported that the cost of overhauling the M/V Katama, originally estimated at $1.1 million, had ballooned by more than 40% after deteriorating structural steel was discovered during drydocking.

The Steamship Authority says that a recent study that it commissioned identified the two freight vessels as having an expected useful life of less than five years, while the two OSVs being acquired from HOS have an estimated remaining useful life of at least 25 years.

Initial cost estimates for the acquisition, conversion and re-activation of the two OSVs is approximately $30 million. The Steamship Authority will finance the acquisition through the sale of bond anticipation notes within its $100 million bonding limit.

“The purchase and conversion of available OSVs is the most efficient, rapid and cost-effective path to upgrade our fleet and best serve the vehicle and freight transport needs of island residents and visitors,” said Steamship Authority General Manager Robert B. Davis. “The similar design of the vessels also promotes economies of scale through interchangeability of vessels for service needs, inventory of spare parts and crew training. Additionally, purchasing these used vessels will put the authority in a better financial transition to plan for investigate the possible inclusion of alternative fuel technologies into its next newly constructed vessel.”

Following design and engineering work for conversion and reactivation, the first of the newly acquired vessels is expected to be operating on Steamship Authority routes to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket by summer 2023. The authority has an option to purchase up to two more vessels from Hornbeck by November 30, 2022, with delivery by December 31, 2022.



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