Amid growing uproar over the problems that continue to plague the Steamship Authority, the boat line’s monthly meeting next week has been switched to the Vineyard as governors take up the thorny question of how best to right the ship.

The meeting was scheduled to be held on Nantucket Tuesday. But at the urging of Vineyard governor Marc Hanover, it was changed to the high school Performing Arts Center from 4 to 6 p.m. There are only two items on the agenda: a proposal by management to improve operations, and public comment.

Meeting scheduled to take place next week on Nantucket was moved to the Vineyard. — Jeanna Shepard

Mr. Hanover said he will renew his call for an outside independent review of boat line operations.

The SSA has been crippled on and off since March by a long and unprecedented spate of mechanical breakdowns and disruptions in service on the Vineyard route. In April it appeared that the problems had been solved.

Then last weekend the ferry Martha’s Vineyard broke down again. The ferry lost power while pulling out of the slip in Woods Hole for the 5 p.m. trip to Vineyard Haven and was forced to drop anchor near Red Ledge. The Coast Guard was called and service was disrupted on both sides for about three hours while boat line crews scrambled to pull the Martha’s Vineyard back into the slip. More problems followed due to a shortage of available slips in Woods Hole, where a major $60 million terminal reconstruction project is under way.

The problem on the ferry was later tracked to a clogged fuel generator, SSA general manager Bob Davis said. The Martha’s Vineyard has been experiencing problems ever since her return this winter from a $17 million mid-life refurbishment at Senesco Marine in Rhode Island.

On Sunday morning the ferry cleared sea trials and was back in service again. On Monday she briefly lost power again on the 1:15 p.m. trip out of Vineyard Haven, although this time there was no loss in propulsion.

For Islanders the problems have begun to add up to widespread concern and loss of confidence in the boat line that is their lifeline.

“It’s out of control,” declared Mr. Hanover.

Early in the week a Facebook page titled Save Our Steamship Authority sprang up and attracted hundreds of followers.

A Gazette community opinion survey launched Wednesday afternoon received nearly 1,700 responses by press time Thursday. (To take the survey, click here.)

The question of whether to hire an outside consultant has so far seen resistance from other members of the boat line board and senior managers, who have acknowledged the problems but believe they can be handled internally.

Staff report indicated 549 ferries cancelled because of mechanical problems so far this year. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Meanwhile, a staff report circulated this week among board members highlights the growing crisis and outlines a plan by Mr. Davis to improve operations, as an alternative to a costly proposal submitted by McKinsey and Company last month.

The McKinsey proposal and its $500,000 price tag is also detailed for the first time in the staff report.

The report includes numbers tracking the number of ferry cancellations from 2014 through the first four months of this year.

From January through April, the SSA saw 549 ferries cancelled because of mechanical problems — more than triple the number of breakdowns in the four previous years combined.

In total, the boat line saw 870 ferry trips cancelled on the Vineyard route between January and April because of mechanical breakdowns, weather issues and end-of-day freight trips that were not needed.

By comparison, in all of 2017 there were 484 cancellations, 26 due to mechanical breakdowns. A total of 148 ferries were cancelled for mechanical reasons from 2014 through 2017.

“I think the numbers speak for themselves,” Mr. Hanover said. “It’s clear we have a huge problem and it needs to be corrected.”

Written by Mr. Davis, the 14-page staff report acknowledges the many problems — including a communications system that is outmoded and unwieldy — and describes a complicated plan to solve them.

Apart from the extreme number of cancellations on the Vineyard route this year, an analysis also found an increasing pattern of cancellations due to weather conditions. As a result, new reporting procedures have been put in place for captains and terminal agents to keep better track of delays and cancellations.

The report also outlines a plan to improve communications, beginning with the hiring of a new communications director, who will be responsible for both developing and carrying out a comprehensive “improvement plan” to the SSA’s communications system.

Until the new communications director is in place, an array of staff responsibilities will be reassigned internally to better manage communication, including updates on the website, travel advisories and email alerts.

The report paints a picture of a cumbersome internal system for getting information out to the public. For example, during the most recent incident in Woods Hole last Saturday, the SSA website was not updated to advise the public until an hour and a half later. According to the report: “This delay was partly attributable to the general manager’s need to focus first on getting to Woods Hole . . . and also the result of emails sent from the general manager’s smart phone not being delivered (which was only corrected after the smart phone was rebooted) or ending up in other staff members’ spam firewalls (which the system did not report until 8 a.m. Sunday); but approximately ten minutes of the delay was because staff did not post the travel advisory until it was approved by the general manager . . .”

Oak Bluffs selectmen backed Vineyard governor Marc Hanover's call for outside review. — Timothy Johnson

The report concludes: “More progress needs to be made in getting information to the public as quickly as possible.”

The report also describes an internal system where terminal agents and ticket sellers are responsible for posting the current status of trips and standby lines on the SSA website. “Whenever there is a service disruption of the magnitude experienced this past Saturday, the terminal agents and ticket sellers are immediately occupied with an entire array of serious customer service issues, which may cause them to forget to update the Authority’s website,” the report says in part.

A new communications and operations center is proposed that would be housed in the new administration building off Palmer avenue in Falmouth.

The report also proposes working with the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce and hosting a public forum on the Vineyard to hear suggestions from Islanders.

At their regular meeting this week, the Oak Bluffs selectmen voted to send a letter to the SSA backing Mr. Hanover in his call for an outside review.

“I really think we should support Marc,” selectman Mike Santoro said. “We have a management in the SSA, they’re afraid, obviously to have a consultant come in.”

Cape and Islands Rep. Dylan Ferndandes and Sen. Julian Cyr added their own call for action in a letter to Mr. Davis. “The Steamship Authority’s failure to solve problems with maintenance and operations, as well as its lack of transparent communication, has become a significant and ongoing concern,” they wrote.