Not smooth sailing for SSA

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It wasn’t a good week for the Steamship Authority (SSA), the Island’s lifeline to the mainland.

First, its website reservation system went kaput on opening day for summer reservations. The outage frustrated customers. SSA is spending millions on a new administration building and millions more on a new terminal in Woods Hole. It needs to pay more attention to delivering the services it promises to provide. Let’s hope SSA officials get ahead of these website problems, which some longtime customers say is an annual rite of frustration, before next year’s opening day for reservations.

One day later, the Steamship Authority was forced to cancel its afternoon and evening ferries, leaving many commuters stranded. The SSA can’t control the weather, obviously, but the first alert that the 2:30 pm ferry was canceled came after 3 pm. That’s just unacceptable.

This is the actual alert:

The following trips have been canceled due to Weather conditions.

M/V WOODS HOLE 2:30PM Vineyard Haven to Woods Hole

For more information, please call 508.548.3788 or 508.693.0367

This alert was sent on 01/12/2018 at 03:18:51 PM

How is that helpful a half-hour after the ferry was supposed to leave port? The “weather conditions” were puzzling to some who received the alerts and have seen the boats operate during bigger blows. Maybe the SSA should consider providing a little more detail to take the mystery out of the cancellations. Ultimately, we learned it was a combination of zero visibility and wind that forced the shutdown.

Finally, with the forecast being what it was Friday night, the Steamship Authority should have moved more quickly to cancel all of its boats, instead of allowing people to believe later boats might run. The result left people stranded by the ferry scrambling to make reservations.

The SSA can and should do better by its customers.