Steamship Authority consultant’s report delayed

SeaStreak coming to the Vineyard for Christmas in Edgartown.

The Steamship Authority board convened for a special meeting Tuesday to hear SeaStreak's request for Christmas service and to get an update on the progress of the independent consultant's report. — Rich Saltzberg

The independent consultant’s report on the Steamship Authority had been expected Wednesday but is now delayed, Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis told the SSA board at a special meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Generation of a report came as a result of a tumultuous spring for the ferry service when mechanical failures compounded by lackluster public communication stoked anger on the Vineyard.

“We’re informed that it will be finished by the second week of December,” former general counsel Steve Sayers said while pinch-hitting for general counsel Terence Kenneally, who was on vacation. “That was based upon a meeting that was supposed to take place tomorrow, but we have not received confirmation.”

The Steamship Authority got word Wednesday that ship won’t sail.

“Unfortunately, today’s video conference had to be canceled,” spokesman Sean Driscoll wrote in an email Wednesday. “We are working with HMS Consulting and Technical to ensure this does not adversely affect the report’s scheduled release in mid-December.”

“We’re informed that the HMS study — the report — won’t be fully finalized in time for the meeting on the 28th,” Davis said to the board Tuesday. He went on to say he believed it was important for the board to have a full report before a presentation is made.

The board decided not to put the report on the agenda in light of the information they received. They left it open as to when they would slate the discussion of the report.

Their next meeting is Nov. 28 at the Palmer Avenue administration offices, and the following meeting is at the Hyannis terminal on Dec. 18.

“We anticipate that it’s going to be a very comprehensive report,” Sayers said, and told the board there was merit in making sure it was the sole agenda item for whenever its review is scheduled. The board agreed.

“We’ll contact HMS to get available dates when they are confident that they will have the report finalized,” Sayers said.

After the meeting, Sayers told The Times Steamship Authority management suspects the communications portion of the report is the factor of delay. He said that notion was based on a fact-vetting session on that subject not having occurred yet. However, he stressed Steamship Authority cannot ethically probe HMS about the status of things if their independent status is to remain intact. “They’re in charge of discussions, we aren’t,” he said.

In other business, the board voted to approve holiday SeaStreak service to Edgartown and Nantucket via New Bedford. On the Vineyard, SeaStreak will bring passengers to Christmas in Edgartown in tandem with Hy-Line service from Hyannis.

“It’s beneficial for SeaStreak overall in our efforts to grow the service more — provide more service between New Bedford and Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket,” SeaStreak general manager John Silvia told The Times after the meeting. “This is our first year to operate the service. We’re excited about it. We’re hopeful that we’ll continue on and have many more successful years.”

“I’m very happy about it,” SeaStreak president James Barker told The Times after the meeting. “Certainly appreciate the board convening on our behalf. It was not our intention. We didn’t realize that our approval was contingent on board approval, so we were obviously very appreciative for all these people to come together to give us permission to run during the Christmas holidays. And I think it will be good for our company; it’ll be good for the customers; it’ll be good for the islands. And we hope the weather cooperates too. We’re very thankful.”