Long-postponed Steamship website now delayed until September

The public has waited over two years for the new website. 

The new Steamship Authority website won't be launching until this September. —MV Times

Despite a ballooning price tag, the Steamship Authority’s new website won’t be launched this summer, adding another delay to a project intended to ease confusion when trying to book reservations. 

Island residents and visitors have issued a litany of complaints about the current website, which sometimes shows completely full boats even though the ferries leave the dock half-empty. 

The latest delay comes as the SSA announced that a crew shortage was forcing it to cancel three freight boat runs each weekday from June 17 to Sept. 5. The Sankaty will instead be used on the Nantucket route. 

The Steamship will not use its newest freight vessel, the Barnstable, to fill in. Although it was due to start service this summer, the Barnstable is still being refurbished at a shipyard in Alabama. It is now expected to start after Labor Day. 

The Aquinnah, the Barnstable’s sister vessel, is expected to begin service later in September. 

Steve Coleman, the information technology director, told an SSA board meeting Tuesday that work on the website has been “fast-moving” since March, but that further testing and development are still required. 

“We’ll take advantage of the time afforded us,” Coleman said. 

Sean Driscoll, spokesperson for the Steamship Authority, said programming challenges for the new website were “more significant” than initially expected. Additionally, some parts of the website needed to be “built from scratch.” 

He said the project was more complex than just a “face-lift” of the current website, which was built about a decade ago. 

He said some late afternoon and evening boats leave partly empty because cars with reservations were able to board earlier boats, thus freeing up space. 

But he said the ferry service can’t say for certain when the website and the app will be completed. He said the SSA does not want to rush the process, because they know the public is looking forward to it. “We want it to be right, and we know we only have one shot at it,” he said.

Several Vineyard residents told the Times about their annoyance with the current website and the latest delay. 

“It’s been very frustrating as a year-round resident,” said Carla Cooper, an Edgartown resident. Cooper said she has to pick up a car in the Palmer Avenue parking lot in Falmouth rather than rely on the reservation system so she can visit her sick mother in Connecticut. 

Todd Rebello, a former Oak Bluffs select board member, said the current website’s “shortfalls” and the latest delay add to his disappointment in the SSA’s management team. 

“We live in a time of incredible achievements in technology, but you wouldn’t know that looking back at the past few years,” Rebello said. 

“That makes no sense to me,” said Mike Benjamin, an Island musician. He said other commercial and transportation services have created online sites in less time for less money. 

“This is all going to cause major issues with summer tourism and much-needed summer revenue that many of us count on,” said Blythe Coleman, an Oak Bluffs resident. 

The costs have grown steadily as the delays have mounted. 

The Steamship Authority originally entered into a $1.996 million contract with Boston-based developer ADK Group, which later became Stellar Elements, in October 2021 for a redesigned website and a new app. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Ferry Boat Program awarded the SSA about $1 million for the project. 

The work kicked off in February 2022, and the SSA said at the time it aimed to launch the new site within a year. 

A year later, in February 2023, the SSA said it needed to delay the launch until the spring or fall of 2023, explaining that it wanted to avoid unveiling a major update during the summer season. 

At the time, the ferry officials said they needed to fix computer bugs, and wanted to ensure that the rollout of the new platform made a good first impression. This delay cost an additional $165,200. 

Last June, however, the SSA board approved another delay, with expectations that the website could launch after the summer. That brought the total cost up to $2.8 million. 

While no budget increases have been requested since then, the SSA has paid $29,000 a month in support services to Stellar Elements for the still-unfinished website. 

The fall 2023 launch didn’t come through. Bob Davis, general manager of the Steamship Authority, told a board meeting last October that the new website and app would not make its debut until after last Thanksgiving. 

Work on the website continued to trudge along, and the board even held an executive session last month regarding “website stress and performance testing and platform evaluation.” 

SSA general counsel Terence Kenneally said in response to an open meeting law complaint filed by The Times that the executive session was warranted because the board also discussed cybersecurity, partly stemming from the ransomware attack on the ferry line in 2021. The attack remains unsolved.


  1. And Jim Malkin continues to insist that the SSA is not a technology company. Clearly, he is right! And, they do not seem to be a transportation company either!

  2. Here is where things don’t add up: the website shows no reservations available on any particular day. However, Sean Driscoll says “some late afternoon and evening boats leave partly empty because cars with reservations were able to board earlier boats, thus freeing up space.” If the earlier boats showed no reservations available, AT ALL, how were any cars able to get on an earlier boat? This doesn’t add up!

    Blaming partially empty boats on cars taking an earlier boat is a smokescreen. Blame the reservation system and the SSA website!

    • Yep, it is pretty much like everywhere else every one hustling for a buck and looking out for themselves. Why would the Island be any different?
      Enough is enough, disband the SSA, Make The Island Great Again. All private ferries like it was before this monster was created, with tax dollars…

  3. Should have hired a couple of students from the High School. They not only would have known what it needs to do to fit the service, but I’m sure they would have been on budget.

  4. GOOD GRIEF!!!! WTF is happening here. I used to think the beautiful island of Martha’s Vineyard was insulated from the crazy outside world. Now it appears that she has fallen into the hands of those whose sole purpose is to take that serene quality of life away from those who truly understand and appreciate it. My dream was to return one day. Now I ask myself why would I want to. It’s just a cluster you know what, like most everywhere else. Sad. So sad.

  5. This is beyond absurd. Over 2 years and $3 million for a booking website? I’d bet an island high schooler could build it in 3 months for a 10th the cost, security included.

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