NANTUCKET­­­ -- An outside independent review of Steamship Authority operations is set to begin next week, with staff from a Seattle-based marine consulting firm scheduled to arrive Tuesday for the first site visit.

Boat line governors, absent Vineyard governor Marc Hanover who did not attend the monthly meeting Tuesday at the Whaling Museum on Nantucket, signed off on a project plan for the review.

Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis said SSA management has worked on the project plans and scheduling with HMS Consulting, the marine firm hired last month to conduct a top-to-bottom review after an unprecedented string of ferry breakdowns this spring.

While service has mostly returned to normal this summer, public relations at the boat line are at a low ebb and minor breakdowns continue to crop up, especially on the ferry Martha’s Vineyard which has been plagued by problems since her return from an $18 million mid-life refurbishment at a Rhode Island shipyard last spring — including failed HVAC systems and doors that are not water tight.

The meeting included detailed discussion about ongoing talks with Senesco Marine, the company that did the work, to correct the problems.

On the outside review, general counsel Steven Sayers, who is retiring and will transition to part time work at the end of this month, will serve as an SSA point person for the project along with retiring human resources director Phillip Parent.

The SSA will pay HMS $217,976 to conduct the review, which is expected to take 12 weeks and will cover five general areas: vessel operations, fleet maintenance, management structure, public communications and IT systems. Among other things consultants will gather data and information, examine logs and records and examine reasons behind trip cancellations and communication lapses.

Mr. Sayers said the HMS project leader is scheduled to fly in from Seattle Monday and conduct the first site visit from Tuesday through Friday, with trips to the Vineyard, Hyannis, Nantucket and the boat line maintenance facility in Fairhaven on the schedule. HMS staff will conduct interviews with SSA employees and passengers along the way, he said. Members of the Coast Guard will be interviewed as well.

Governors voted 3-1 to approve a 15-page draft plan for the project. New Bedford governor Moira Tierney objected, saying that Mr. Hanover should be part of the decision.

“This particular project was in large part generated by the Vineyard’s wholesale dissatisfaction with what was going on with some of our operations,” she said. “I think not to have Marc involved in this is inappropriate and we didn’t have notice that we would vote.”

Speaking to the Gazette by phone Wednesday, Mr. Hanover said he did not attend the meeting because he was detained at the last minute by a problem at work. “I had my flight and was ready to go at 7:30, but we had an emergency at work so I was unable to go,” he said. Mr. Hanover owns Linda Jean’s restaurant in Oak Bluffs.

On Tuesday board members said they came prepared to take action.

“I just want to get on with the process,” Nantucket governor Robert Ranney said. “[HMS] have a dedicated focus on the stuff they need to know and they have a certain time in which to accomplish that. For myself I just want to continue. It’s consistent with their original proposal so I have no problem with his.

Falmouth governor Elizabeth Gladfelter noted the plan was based on an earlier proposal chosen by the board.

Ms. Tierney pressed to have a ferry employee representative present at meetings with the consultants.

Mr. Sayers said that decision would be up to the union. He added that he and Mr. Parent are non-supervisory staff members and would assure employees that they could speak freely to consultants without fear of retaliation.

Meanwhile, Mr. Davis outlined the punch list of items still needing to be resolved on the Martha’s Vineyard. One significant issue is that the passenger side doors are not water tight, he said, noting that a temporary fix has been installed since Senesco cannot make repairs until the fall. A staff summary prepared for the meeting describes a work-around where Senesco “created troughs under the doors this spring as a temporary measure in order to catch water where it is leaking.”

Failed air conditioning units near the ferry lunch counter also remain an ongoing problem. Mr. Davis said at one point during the recent heat wave temperatures in the lunchroom exceeded 100 degrees, and counter staff had to rotate shifts every 15 minutes for relief. The cause was a failed circuit board, Mr. Davis said, and then a replacement also failed. He said a technician diagnosed the problem and made repairs last week. Portable air conditioning units remain in use. “I’m told temperatures in that area have become more acceptable,” the general manager said. “Not refrigerator cold but comfortable is what I am told.”

The staff summary notes: “The SSA continues to clear the drains for the HVAC units so that condensation can be collected and drained without overflowing onto the deck.”

The SSA has paid $16.5 million so far toward the total refurbishment cost of $18 million. “We will continue to work with Senesco on the project status as well as any open items we need to address with them,” Mr. Davis said. He said a meeting with shipyard owners is planned for later this month.

Ms. Tierney asked if there was any chance the boat line would not have to pay the remaining amount. Mr. Davis said the SSA is required by contract to pay most of the money. “The way the contract is written our options are somewhat limited,” he said. “We’re trying to resolve this amicably with them . . . to get the boat working in the manner that we require it to be working.”

Mr. Davis said the boat line is working to reolve an issue with Peter Pan Bus lines to be sure the last bus of the day arrives in time to meet the last ferry of the day. An issue arose last month when the last bus of the day from Boston arrived late and the last ferry had already departed. Young adults were on the bus and had trouble finding lodging for the night, Mr. Davis said.

Going forward, terminal agents will call Peter Pan if the bus has not arrived by 9:40 p.m. for the 9:45 p.m. ferry, Mr. Davis said. He said he has also had discussions with hotels nearby to accommodate people of all ages who miss the ferry.

The ongoing project to reconstruct the Woods Hole terminal and boat slips is suspended for the summer season and set to resume in the fall. Mr. Davis said he had spoken with contractor Jay Cashman Inc. about possibly postponing construction of the permanent terminal and using the temporary terminal for a longer time. The extension would relieve pressure on the capital budget and allow the boat line more time to study traffic patterns, he said, but in the end the state building inspector would not authorize the delay.

“There’s also a lot to be said for just getting the project done,” Mr. Sayers said.

In his monthly business summary Mr. Davis said operating revenue is up about .6 per cent compared to budget projections. Year-to-date operating revenues are down by about 2.2. per cent compared to budget. Year-to-date, ferries have made 7,957 trips, five per cent off traffic projections. So far this year on the Vineyard route 556 trips were canceled because of mechanical reasons, 221 for weather and 121 for traffic demands. Ferries ran 608 additional unscheduled trips.

Port council member Robert Huss of Oak Bluffs told the board the council discussed starting off-season excursion rates for Islanders on the Wednesday after Labor Day. Currently the rates go into effect on Sept. 15.

“People on the Vineyard, they can’t wait until Labor Day comes,” Ms. Gladfelter said, noting pent-up demand among year-round Islanders for more affordable travel.

Mr. Davis noted the date had already been moved up from Oct. 15 and said he would look into the idea. “The space demand at that time of year is still very high,” he said. “We can look at it . . . if it’s an opportunity to fill space that’s one thing. If it’s a matter that we don’t have the space, then it’d be a policy decision.”

Mr. Davis’s annual performance evaluation was postponed due to Mr. Hanover’s absence.

The boat line also recognized Nantucket boat captain Bruce Malenfant, who is retiring after more than 40 years with the SSA. The board agreed to adopt a new policy of sending letters of appreciation when longtime employees retire.

The board also thanked Mr. Sayers, who was attending his last meeting as general counsel after more than 25 years with the SSA.