Steamship Authority Approves Rate Hikes To Offset Rising Fuel Costs

Jason Graziadei •

Hazlegrove 1821

It’s going to cost you more to get to and from Nantucket in 2023. The Steamship Authority’s Board of Governors on Tuesday voted unanimously to implement rate hikes on both its Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard routes to help offset increased fuel costs, as well as other expenses related to vessel dry-dock for its aging fleet, and terminal maintenance.

The board decided against raising the rate for vehicle excursion fares for year-round residents of the islands, which will remain unchanged.

The rate hikes were first proposed in September, and have since been the subject of several public hearings before earning the endorsement of the Steamship’s Port Council last week, and the Board of Governors Tuesday morning.

For Nantucket, the rate hikes include the following increases:

  • Standard vehicles under 20 ft: $11 to $14 one-way, $20 peak Fri-Sun
  • Vehicles over 20 feet. 8 percent
  • Barge fees: $1 per ton
  • Car ferry passenger fares: $1 on car ferries for adults, $0.50 for children and seniors
  • Car ferry computer books: $8 per book, $5 for seniors and children
  • Fast ferry passenger fares: $3 on high speed, $1.50 for children, $2.25 for seniors
  • Fast ferry same day round-trip tickets: $2.50 adults, $1.75 seniors, $1.25 children
  • Fast ferry commuter books: $25 adults, $17 seniors, $15 children
  • Parking: $50 and $1 per day

The Steamship is attempting to raise an additional $7.8 million through the rate increases to help offset fuel costs which have increased by $5.6 million, or 69 percent. Steamship treasurer Mark Rozum said the Authority had budgeted fuel at $2.37 per gallon in 2022, but was budgeting it at $3.93 per gallon in 2023.

The goal of the rate increases would be to raise revenues by $4.4 million on the Vineyard route, and $3.4 million on the Nantucket route to help offset the fuel expenses.

"There's a lot of things that go into this, but fuel is huge and other stuff like maintenance never seems to get cheaper," said Rob Ranney, Nantucket's representative on the Steamship Authority Board of Governors. "Unfortunately this is something that comes up every year or two. We didn't have rate increases last year, and with inflation across the country, the Steamship is not immune."

While the original proposal included a $2 per fare increase on the excursion rate - the discount program for year-round residents of the islands - the board decided to minimize as much as possible the impacts of the rate increases on the Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard communities. They nixed the excursion rate increases, and decided to add another $2 per fare on standard vehicle fares in the offseason.

"It (the proposed excursion fare increase) wasn't a huge percentage of the budget, so we wanted to shift some of that cost onto off-island residents as opposed to island residents," Ranney said. "It may come back to bite us in a year or two, as there is a larger and larger gap between (revenue from) excursion and standard fares. It's a balancing act, but this is a good thing for island residents for sure."

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