A key recommendation from outside marine consultants that the Steamship Authority add a chief operating officer appears to be stalled after a reduced board of governors met Tuesday afternoon.

General manager Bob Davis told the four-member board (currently absent a sitting Falmouth governor) he supports the recommendations from HMS Consulting that the SSA create new positions for a director of marine operations and a health, safety, quality and environmental (HSQE) officer.

But out of three proposed organizational charts Mr. Davis provided the board as alternatives to the current management structure, none includes a chief operating officer as urged by HMS.

“I question whether it is also necessary to create a chief operating officer position,” Mr. Davis wrote in a memorandum to the board partly titled “Initial Thoughts” and dated Jan. 15 but not released to the public until Tuesday. It was not clear at the meeting whether the governors had read the memorandum.

“As it is now, various staff members all have access to me one on one, so to add something in between there may be seen as perhaps an unnecessary step,” Mr. Davis told the board at the round table meeting held in the boat line’s Palmer avenue offices.

Four governors met Tuesday with general manager Robert Davis. — Louisa Hufstader

HMS consultants have proposed a management structure that would put a COO in charge of engineering, marine operations and shore operations, while the treasurer and directors of human resources, information technology and communications would continue reporting directly to the general manager.

At present, the positions of treasurer and HR, as well as port captain, are vacant. Vineyard governor Marc Hanover urged Mr. Davis to move swiftly to engage a “top notch consultant” to fill the positions.

“You can only last so long doing 12 jobs,” Mr. Hanover said. Mr. Davis told the board he is actively conducting outside searches for candidates to fill the treasurer, HR director and port captain jobs, which are already budgeted for 2019. In the short-term, he said he would assume the duties of treasurer. He also said it could take as long as two years to carry out the recommendations in the HMS report.

In its report, issued in December, HMS said that upper management at the boat line was seriously understaffed.

“SSA is over reliant on a small number of individuals who hold inordinate amounts of knowledge and power, resulting in an executive team that is stuck in a perpetual mode of day-to-day firefighting,” the report said.

On Tuesday Mr. Davis countered another HMS recommendation, that the boat line engage an outside consultant to help develop a strategic plan and a mission statement, suggesting instead that he hire a staff planner who would both develop and manage the process.

To hire a planner, director of marine operations, HSQE director and any other new positions — including a COO, if the board decides to press Mr. Davis on the issue — the boat line will have to dig into passengers’ pockets.

“There are going to be rate increases,” said Nantucket governor Robert Ranney. “Where else is our revenue going to come from?”

New Bedford governor Maura Tierney urged transparency as the SSA begins to act on the consultants’ recommendations.

“If there’s going to be a rate increase, I think we have to start letting our customers know,” Ms. Tierney said, adding that the financial burden likely will mean “we might not be able to build a boat as quickly.”

She also recommended a budget-saving move: Take the money earmarked for the port captain and use it to hire a director of marine operations, as recommended by HMS. The director of marine operations would then weigh in on the choice of port captain. The remaining board members agreed with Ms. Tierney’s suggestion.

In the end the board agreed that as a first priority Mr. Davis should seek a qualified candidate for the new director of marine operations. No formal action

was taken on the other suggestions from Mr. Davis.

The roundtable discussion followed the regular monthly meeting Tuesday morning, in which board members learned that there is still no target date for the consultants’ review of boat line communications, one of five areas the consultants were asked to review when they were hired under public pressure this summer do an assessment of the SSA.

A videoconference with the HMS subcontractor conducting this element of the review is still pending, and the final recommendations are likely to “slide into next month,” according to retired general counsel Steven M. Sayers who remains on contract as the SSA works through both the HMS report and the boat line’s $60 million Woods Hole terminal redesign.

Only four governors were on hand for Tuesday’s morning business meeting and afternoon discussion. Falmouth governor Elizabeth Gladfelter, whose term expired in December, has not been reappointed by Falmouth selectmen.

While board rules allow her to remain until another governor is appointed, she said she was not willing to serve without an appointment and resigned.

In an email to the Gazette, Ms. Gladfelter said she has applied again for the position. The town website lists the position as open, although Ms. Gladfelter still appeared on the SSA website Thursday.

“She was a very valuable member of the board and very supportive of the community she represented,” Mr. Jones said Tuesday morning.

Falmouth town manager Julian Suso told the Gazette Thursday that selectmen are receiving applications from interested residents through the end of this month and will move forward with interviews and an appointment in February.

SSA governors next meet on Feb. 19 in Falmouth.