After four years, the Steamship Authority is finally nearing action on a key recommendation from the comprehensive review of boat line operations in 2018: hiring a chief operating officer.

General manager Robert Davis told the SSA port council Tuesday morning that he expects to name a COO before the end of 2022, from a pool of five candidates not currently employed by the boat line and two from within.

Mr. Davis said he has one more interview to complete.

“From there, we’ll be looking at what the next step will be," he said.

The number of applicants for SSA chief operating officer was originally 10, Mr. Davis said, but some outside candidates dropped out when they learned the salary range of $125,000 to $150,000.

Adding a COO to the boat line’s management structure was strongly urged by a team of maritime consultants who spent much of 2018 studying SSA operations in deep detail, after a series of vessel breakdowns earlier that year.

Mr. Davis, a longtime Steamship Authority employee who was promoted from treasurer/comptroller to general manager in 2016, at first resisted the recommendation, telling the boat line board of governors in early 2019 that he didn’t see the need for an extra layer of management between his office and SSA department heads.

Governors did not press the issue at the time.

The boat line has since put into practice many of the consultants’ recommendations, creating and filling new positions including director of shoreside operations, director of marine operations and safety/quality management systems director.

The SSA also hired a full-time communications director, revamped its computer systems and is preparing to launch a new website in early 2023.

But no action was taken on a chief operating officer for more than three years.

The SSA’s hand was forced after the Cape and Islands legislative delegation filed a bill on Beacon Hill in February, 2022, seeking to change the SSA’s enabling legislation to mandate the position.

In March, the boat line board moved briskly to authorize the hiring process for a C.O.O., aiming to show state legislators they don’t need to rewrite the 1960 act that created the Steamship Authority.

The chosen candidate will interact with all aspects of SSA operations — and with the way the different parts work together, Mr. Davis said Tuesday.

“There’s a lot of dynamics to the position, in terms of … the vessel operation side, the shoreside activities, the reservation activities and things like,” he said.

“I’m trying to find the best candidate that would be able to not only compartmentalize each aspect of it, but also to realize the impact that each one of these functions has on the other.”