It’s been five years since independent consultants at HMS in Seattle, Wash. issued their detailed management study of the Steamship Authority following an unprecedented series of breakdowns on ferries. General manager Bob Davis has been slow — even resistant at times — to adopt some of the recommendations in the study, including the hiring of a chief operating officer and the launching of a strategic plan.

The COO position was finally filled last week, but only after a good deal of prodding to get Mr. Davis on board. The strategic plan initiative — a first in the long history of the boat line — is finally now getting under way.

It’s about time.

While the world is changing all around it, the SSA seems always a step behind, reacting instead of anticipating, following the same old playbook. Meeting agendas follow a boilerplate formula; debate and discussion are for the most part tepid.

In the latest in series of mystifying missteps, the boat line now finds itself confronting a pressing operational and budgetary problem involving the recent purchase of three former offshore oil vessels that it plans to convert to freight boats for the fleet. Bids for converting the vessels, originally estimated at around $8 to $9 million apiece, have come in at more than twice that amount.

This a stunning miscalculation by Mr. Davis, the former longtime treasurer and comptroller at the boat line who is a numbers man above all else.

At a special meeting called for yesterday, governors were expected to demand a detailed explanation from Mr. Davis about how the bid projections fell so far off the mark.

A few months ago, it was the SSA’s reservation system that failed to perform for the third time in six years, prompting the board to insist on an overdue review of the entire technology underpinning the authority. Meanwhile, the misbegotten Woods Hole ticket office reconstruction is still incomplete, with rare unanimity on both sides of the sound that less would have decidedly been more.

At the Ferries Now event hosted by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and others last week, it became clear how far behind other ferry systems the Steamship Authority is in thinking about converting its fleet from diesel to electric. While any change would be many years down the road, the topic deserves serious study and consideration.

The boat line has served the two Islands well and admirably for the past 60 years, but times have changed. Customers aren’t looking for luxury, but they do demand competence, reliability, state of the art communication and the confidence that the Steamship Authority is looking after the needs of Islanders first, which is what it was chartered to do.

A strategic plan should start by restating that objective and begin to take a longer view about how the Steamship Authority can and should evolve to meet its core mission.

How does the SSA contribute to steadily increasing traffic on the Islands, and what can be done to address that? Should the Steamship Authority continue its practice of marketing and promoting itself to off-Island customers, making it more difficult for Islanders to travel freely? What is the long-term plan to convert the fleet and otherwise reduce reliance on fossil fuels?

Now with a capable new COO joining the ranks, it’s time to look out a few years and constructively imagine what good, long-term planning could achieve.