State legislation won’t be needed for a chief operating officer to join the Steamship Authority’s management ranks.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday morning, boat line governors agreed to create a job description and begin a search to fill the position, four years after it had been recommended by an independent management review.

SSA manager Robert Davis, who had resisted the move until recently, likened the position to a chief of staff.

“The priority for the COO would be to partner with the general manager and ultimately be responsible to ensure that the vessel and shoreside operations teams collaborate, to keep the operations and business on schedule,” Mr. Davis said.

Along with directing vessel operations, fleet maintenance and terminal parking, the chief operating officer will also be charged with developing and executing operational strategies, ensuring regulatory compliance and improving communication and efficiency throughout SSA operations, among other responsibilities, Mr. Davis said.

Vineyard governor James Malkin had a simpler job description.

“The COO drives the bus,” Mr. Malkin said. “The CEO or the GM will tell him the routes he has to cover, but driving the bus is the function of the COO.”

Governors also said they hoped their vote to short-circuit a state bill filed last month by state Rep. Dylan Fernandes and state Sen. Julian Cyr that would change the authority’s enabling legislation to mandate a COO.

“We’ve got to show the legislators that we’re taking the COO part of their proposal very, very seriously,” New Bedford governor and board chairman Moira Tierney said of House bill 4527, which also calls for term limits on the board of governors.

“This is the right place to have that conversation, and not on Beacon Hill,” said Falmouth governor Peter Jeffrey.

“The hope would be that the legislators will see that this is something that is being addressed internally,” Mr. Davis said.

The new management position will add roughly $250,000 to the boat line budget, including salary, benefits and the cost for a search, Mr. Davis said.

It also will require a change to the SSA’s bylaws, which currently define the general manager as the chief operating officer.

The vote Tuesday rewrites that section to redefine the general manager as the chief executive officer.

Hiring a chief operating officer is one of the few remaining recommendations that SSA governors had yet to act on from a list of 10 developed in 2018 by management consultants HMS and Glosten, Mr. Davis said.

A director of marine operations, director of shoreside operations and health, safety, quality and environment manager position have already been added and staffed following the HMS report, which was based on a comprehensive six-month independent study.

On Tuesday, Mr. Davis proposed another new position, which the board approved with little discussion: a grant administrator who would report to treasurer/comptroller Mark Rozum.

“The priority for the grant administrator would to be to apply for state and federal grants as well as to administer and manage them on an ongoing basis,” Mr. Davis said.

“To have someone solely dedicated to that process, we feel, would be of great value to the authority.”

Among other business Tuesday, governors voted to issue a request for proposals from businesses interested in providing freight service to the Vineyard via an off-Cape port.

Based on a pilot New Bedford freight program the SSA engaged in during 2000 and 2001, boat line attorney Steven Sayers said, the RFP leaves open the possibility that a freight contractor may use the SSA reservation system and, if needed, limited use of a slip at the Vineyard Haven terminal.

“The touchstone word for me is flexibility,” Mr. Sayers said. “Some proponents may not feel they can be successful without the use of our reservation system . . . We are providing that type of non-monetary assistance to the service as part of our good faith in hoping that it succeeds.”

But financially, any freight shipper will have to carry its own weight, Mr. Sayers said, because the Steamship Authority can assume none of the risk.

“Our financial health and stability are essential to the Island and we don’t believe we should be jeopardizing it,” he said.

A recent state study evaluated off-Cape freight shipping and found it could be viable, but the study also detailed a number of potential drawbacks to such a service.

Governors will be responsible for evaluating the proposals, Mr. Sayers said, with the goal of awarding a license in October.

Also Tuesday, the board learned that United Parcel Service has flubbed its Martha’s Vineyard freight reservations for the coming season, as well as those for Nantucket.

It was reported last week that UPS had missed its Nantucket reservation deadlines, to the consternation of residents there.

Though he declined to name the company, Mr. Davis said that “a large common carrier” submitted its 2022 reservation requests for both routes nearly a month after the Sept. 28, 2021 deadline.

“They did receive their request for the Vineyard route, though not necessarily the times they wanted,” he said.

But the shipper’s Nantucket reservations are all for its smaller vehicles, which take up two automobile spaces, and none for the larger trucks that need twice as much room.

To minimize the disruption to Nantucket businesses and private customers, Mr. Davis requested the board’s permission to prioritize the common carrier for waiting lists while looking for available space on existing trips.

“It’s very labor intensive,” Mr. Davis said of the latter task. “We have to look at each individual trip.”

No one with existing reservations will be displaced to make way for the shipper’s trucks, he also said.

Corrected from earlier version which stated that the new COO position would add $350,000 to the SSA budget. The correct number is $250,000.