Steamship Authority Board Wants Independent Review of Operations

Steamship Authority photo:

WOODS HOLE – As a result of more than 500 trip cancellations due to mechanical issues this year, the members of the Steamship Authority’s board voted Tuesday for an independent review of operations.

The unanimous decision came as hundreds gathered at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School to voice their frustrations.

Steamship Authority General Manager Bob Davis says previous plans already called for an independent review of maintenance program best practices.

“It was expanded at [Tuesday’s] meeting to include vessel operations, management structure, communications and our IT department,” Davis said.

Throughout this spring and as recently as this month, the SSA had major problems with the M/V Woods Hole, the M/V Katama, and M/V Martha’s Vineyard, with each being out of service at times.

“The biggest issue has been with the M/V Martha’s Vineyard which we had out for a mid-life refurbishment,” Davis said. “The vessel was basically gutted and rebuilt.”

Davis said some issues were anticipated after returning from the shipyard but the number of issues were overwhelming.

A request for proposals for one or more consultants is expected to be released by the end of the week.

“Consultants in the industry that would be dealing with certain particular items may not have expertise in other areas,” Davis said. “We are going to be looking to craft the RFP so that firms could bid on portions of the contract. That way we are able to get who is best for the individual parts of the review.”

Cape and Islands State Senator Julian Cyr and Barnstable/Dukes/Nantucket State Representative Dylan Fernandes recently wrote a joint letter to Davis calling for action to resolve the issues which have led to growing frustrations amongst travelers.

Cyr and Fernandes said that those who live on Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard should have access to adequate ferry service.

“Islanders have a right to dependable transportation on and off island, for access to work, healthcare, and myriad other needs (sic)” they wrote.”

The letter cites issues with equipment, communication, and planning stating that the issues are “looking less like an isolated problem, which is extremely troubling.”

They recommend that the company share contingency plans with the public in the event of another mechanical or operational failure. The officials want the Authority to hire a full-time communications manager to improve transparency and community engagement – and, presumably, be on hand to address the concerns of local public officials.

“We appreciate their concerns and they are also our concerns as well,” Davis said. “We have been working on improving our communications.”

The SSA board had previously approved the creation of a communications director position.

“We have been working on narrowing down the candidates on that to get someone in house soon,” Davis said.

The SSA has had issues with text and email alerts getting out to customers.

“We are looking to have that looked at as well to make sure that some of the improvements we have already instituted are appropriate or what we should be looking at next to improve on that,” Davis said.

Davis said all major maintenance on SSA vessels have been completed and they should be ready to go for the summer season.

The board is expected to issue a recommendation on proposals for the review at their June 19 meeting.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

Material from the Associated Press was used in this article.

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