Steamship website redesign reaches nearly $3 million

The launch of a redesigned website has also been pushed to September, months after the original date. 

Another delay took place for the launch of the redesigned SSA website. —Eunki Seonwoo

The Steamship Authority’s (SSA) website relaunch is facing another delay, and a cost spike that pushes it near $3 million.

The SSA board voted 3-1 to approve a change order with the firm managing the website redesign for $288,000, bringing up the total project cost to $2.8 million. 

Falmouth representative Peter Jeffrey was the sole dissenting vote during the Thursday afternoon meeting, but board members were not happy. Vineyard representative Jim Malkin called the creeping costs a “management failure.”

Stellar Elements — originally called Projekt202, which later changed to ADK Group — is running the redesign. 

SSA general manager Robert Davis said development of the website redesign will continue over the summer, with a fall release date. “There’s a number of elements on this project that still need to be resolved,” he said. “To be rolling this out at this time of year, we don’t feel is the best. We only have one chance to make a first impression.” 

The SSA initially planned to launch a redesigned website and mobile app, a project originally budgeted for $2.6 million, by this spring. However, the project was delayed in February.

According to SSA spokesperson Sean Driscoll, the original contract cost was $1.996 million, but previous change orders increased the costs to $2.5 million. 

The website also saw a mishap with its cloud servers during the opening of summer reservations for Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, during which many customers had difficulties accessing the website and experienced long wait times. Driscoll told The Times at the time that the difficulties were not related to the website redesign.

According to Driscoll, the website redesign is undergoing a “very rigorous” development and testing phase.

“Large portions of the functionality are complete from a development standpoint, but many items still remain to be fully tested and debugged,” he said. However, the website is not at a stage to do a “friends and family beta testing.” 

Board members were not thrilled by the cost increase. Malkin expressed concern about “cost creep” with the project. “This project is dragging out and costing considerably more money every time we turn around,” he said. 

“I’m a little outraged at this point,” Jeffrey said.

Jeffrey pointed out that this change order makes the third delay to a project originally meant to be on a one-year contract, now likely to last two years. He also said he asked last December, when the first change order occurred, whether further delays would occur. Jeffrey said he was “assured” by the project manager that no further delays would occur. Considering the delays, name changes, and the new launch date being close to when the SSA’s technology audit will be completed, Jeffrey expressed doubt over the project process.

“I don’t have any real confidence with any of the information I’m being given by the project manager, from the Steamship Authority, as to what the actual issues are and remain to be,” he said. 

Additionally, Jeffrey said the cost creep has already taken place. “I don’t see an end to this,” he said. “Correct me if I’m wrong; when will this launch? And at this point, I think we already made the wrong impression to the traveling public.” 

Barnstable representative Robert Jones said the board gets “stuck in the middle” of unexpectedly high costs for SSA projects, which he was uncomfortable with. However, Jones expressed a need to push the website redesign forward, since it seems to be near completion, as the SSA has done with other projects in the past. “We’ll just have to bite the bullet and move forward with it,” he said. 

Driscoll acknowledged the process has been taking longer than expected, saying more internal resources should have been brought onto the project. He also said that when the current website was being made around 10 years ago, there were also difficulties associated with the transition. “Due to sort of the inner nature of website design — you test, you find things, you have to go back and redesign, retest — the path forward is not always a straight one,” he said. 

Nantucket representative Robert Ranney said he felt the process was going in the right direction despite the complications. He said the move to the present website was “a little less complicated” compared with the current project, but the transition was still difficult. “Now, we’re in a world that is more complicated,” he said, adding that it was important to get the launch right. “We’re trying to get it right, I think, and we’re headed in the right direction. It’s just taking longer.” 

When Malkin asked what would happen if the board voted against the change order, Driscoll said the project would continue but would not be ready until 2024. 

After further discussion, the board gave its approval for the change order.


  1. Just remember; none of this was foreseeable and it definitely is not Bob Davis’ fault! It never is!

  2. Seems like the website worked pretty well until that ransomware attack two years ago. SSA stuck to it’s guns on that one and refused to pay – although I don’t recall them ever disclosing the amount of the ransom demand. I’ll bet it was significantly less than $3 million. Never heard much about who dropped the ball on their web security either. It could be that it’s just a coincidence that these problems started to plague us around that time, but it’s impossible to form an informed opinion when they have never fully disclosed the details, other than claiming that full customer function had been restored. I do know that I was on a boat that sailed at 2/3 capacity today, despite the fact that it has shown as fully booked for months, and it’s certainly not the first time that has happened.

    • The important thing is to name names so that real Islanders know who to vilify
      Their email address so that we can intimidate them.

    • Just remember that your friends and neighbors voted for the County Commissioners who voted for the Board of Governors who voted for the management team.

      On the boat that sailed at 2/3 capacity today how many paid reservations were there?
      Airlines have a pretty good handle on their no show rate, that is why they overbook, occasionally they burn a few passengers.
      Would you like to the SSA function like the airlines, full boats and few cars with confirmed reservations left behind?

    • This is what happens when we the people elect bad County Commissioners.
      The problem is in the mirror.

  3. Won’t stop them from giving Davis a 90% approval rating on the upcoming review. The governors are as much to blame as management.
    Interesting at the June 29 meeting that Davis scheduled the new COO to detail the mess on new vessel purchase/refit. He wasn’t even on board when that deal went down

  4. Seems to be a Bob Davis pattern for years now. Select a multi-million dollar bid, then go over budget by at least 50%. And he was trained as an accountant.

    • The pattern, for decades, is that Islanders keep voting for County Commissioners who keep “incompetent management” in place.
      The SSA problem is on Island.

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