A Seattle, Wash., marine consulting company was the top choice this week to undertake a comprehensive review of Steamship Authority operations.

SSA governors voted unanimously Tuesday morning to award a contract to HMS Consulting and Technical Engineers. HMS bid $217,976. The award is still subject to contract negotiations.

Eight companies had responded to a request for proposals that went out early this month after the board of governors had agreed to seek an independent review of operations. The state-chartered boat line and its board have been under pressure and in the public eye following an unprecedented spate of ferry breakdowns on the Vineyard route this spring.

Following an exhaustive three-hour evaluation in the Hyannis terminal conference room Tuesday of all eight companies, HMS rose to the top as the company to perform the outside review.

Another Seattle firm, KPFF Consulting Engineers, was also ranked highly, but its bid came in higher at $556,000.

Guided by boat line general counsel Steve Sayers, all five governors evaluated each proposal on an array of criteria, including how the company would evaluate key areas of fleet maintenance, vessel operations, public communication and IT systems.

“I like these guys a lot,” Vineyard governor Marc Hanover said, speaking about HMS. “A lot of East Coast experience, a lot of ferry experience and I like their timeline.”

The company has proposed a 12-week review using an investigative process that would create a detailed project plan after gathering data and other information from SSA staff and board members, examining logs and records, and conducting interviews to look into the causes and reasons behind trip cancellations and communication problems.

At the end the company said it will propose short and long-term recommendations.

HMS has proposed working with two subcontractors: Glosten, a naval architecture and marine engineering company in Seattle, and Rigor Analytics, a marketing consulting company with an office in Massachusetts.

According to the proposal, HMS has managed and operated more than 20 ferry systems, and has performed operational reviews for ferry lines including Washington State ferries, North Carolina ferries and the Governors Island ferry in New York city. Mr. Sayers said HMS clients spoke highly about the company.

New Bedford governor Moira Tierney said she thought HMS had the most relevant experience when it came to looking at operations and maintenance. “The most reasonable and organized approach,” she said.

KPFF Consulting, which has worked with clients including the New York City Department of Transportation, was ranked second highest for a proposal that outlined a comprehensive evaluation that would conclude in late February or early March of next year.

Once it was settled that the two Seattle firms were the top picks, procurement officer Peggy Nickerson disclosed the financial part of the bids. Most were in the low $200,000 range. McKinsey and Company in Boston, which had submitted a $500,000 proposal earlier, came in with the highest bid at $969,000.

“I’m a little disappointed that KPFF was so expensive. But actually it was the range these RFPs would have come in,” Barnstable governor Robert Jones said.

Falmouth governor Elizabeth Gladfelter said the KPFF bid had different parameters. “This is twice as much because it’s very comprehensive, over an eight-month period,” she said. “I’m not surprised it’s that expensive.”

Ms. Tierney questioned whether it was worth the added $300,000.

In the end the board voted to award the contract to HMS, pending contract negotiations, with KPFF as a second choice.

Mr. Sayers said among other things negotiations will take up a proposed indemnification requirement that he and the board opposed.

“Okay, let’s go make it work,” Mr. Jones said.

The bids from the other companies were as follows: Ernst & Young in Lynnfield, $385,000 to $425,000; Alexander Proudfoot Company in Atlanta, $247,650; FRS Europe Holding GmbH in Flensburg, Germany, $235,000; Foss Maritime Company in Seattle, $240,500; and Hudson Pacific Capital Partners in Florida, $201,600.