The Steamship Authority needs to overhaul its information technology systems as soon as possible, according to a long-awaited report presented Tuesday at a joint meeting of the boat line board of governors and port council.

“You’re at a point where you must change. You must transform. You have a technology debt,” said Thomas Innis of Gibbous LLC, the Belmont-based consultancy engaged last June to study the authority’s IT systems after a series of breakdowns in the online reservations system.

An outsourced product dating from 1997, the reservations system is at the heart of the authority’s tech problems, he said — and its sole owner is about to retire.

“The vendor for the reservations system, which is really the core of all your technology, is exiting the market, and so now there’s a new urgency to really replace that,” Mr. Innis said.

Steamship Authority software developers have been building new functions atop the reservation system for more than 20 years, but the time has come to replace the entire structure, he said.

“You have a reservations system in the center, and then organic growth of lots of different systems around it that have been developed [with] lots of customization, lots of changes to meet different stakeholder needs,” Mr. Innis said.

“You’ve kind of reached the end point of that,” he said.

“Users are looking for more out of the system than they’re getting today,” Mr. Innis added, noting that the reservations system was written in a computer language that has fallen out of use over the decades.

“It’s hard to find developers that work in that language,” Mr. Innis said.

Additionally, he said, the Steamship Authority’s most experienced staff software developers have begun retiring.

“Because of the strength of your team, you’ve been able to get away with an under-investment in technology,” Mr. Innis said, urging the board to consider information technology as an area of capital investment rather than an operating expense.

“It is going to be expensive,” he said. “It will more than likely cost more than the website … so it’s a significant investment,” he said.

A chief information officer would strengthen the boat line’s governance of its information systems and its vendor management, Mr. Innis added.

“You don’t have a CIO that’s part of the leadership,” he said.

Mr. Innis recommended a six-month study of the existing reservations system in order to assess the work needed to create and maintain a 21st-century version.

He has identified eight companies that could work with the Steamship Authority once a request for proposals has been developed.

Among other business Tuesday, the board of governors and port council deferred voting on a draft strategic plan developed by the Raftelis consulting firm of Natick, moving instead to call another joint meeting Jan. 11 to discuss the plan in detail.

General manager Robert Davis reported that the new SSA website will not launch in full until after the January opening for 2024 auto reservations, so that customers aren’t forced to grapple with a new site while seeking their annual bookings.

The board of governors also reorganized its officers for 2024, with Robert Jones of Barnstable taking the chair, Islander James Malkin becoming vice chair and Peter Jeffrey of Falmouth becoming secretary.

Tuesday’s meeting began with Mr. Davis’s call for a moment of silence in memory of former Falmouth board member James H. Smith, who died Dec. 1 at 94.

First appointed in June of 1963, Mr. Smith stepped down in December of 1990, making him the longest-serving member in the history of the governing board, Mr. Davis said.