Steamship Authority General Manager Bob Davis and COO Mark Higgins on Tuesday provided a brief update on the status of the Authority’s Hyannis/Nantucket fast ferry schedule which has been limited by a deck officer shortage.
The remarks came during yesterday's Port Council meeting, and the two Steamship officials said they are in the process of hiring more help to combat the deck officer shortage that has forced them to trim the boat line's daily fast ferry trips this summer down from five trips to four. But they admitted that the schedule won’t be returning to normal anytime soon and ruled out a return to normal in July.
Deck officers are licensed by the Coast Guard and are responsible for navigation and safety on the Steamship’s vessels. Davis and Higgins said they recently sent a group of candidates off to be trained who have submitted applications. They have two candidates that completed all of the necessary testing prerequisites and will be assigned as mates aboard the Steamship Authority’s vessels in short order. There are two who have completed four of the five prerequisites and another candidate who has completed three of the five.
“Even though we have gotten some relief here with these individuals we will continue - at least through July – to be looking at the weekends and see if we can get some additional help over the weekends,” Davis and Higgins said. “But the schedule – as it stands right now – the full schedule is four trips per day instead of five trips per day.”
The Steamship made a revision to their daily schedule on June 16, announcing on Twitter that the 7:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. Hyannis/Nantucket fast ferry trips would not run until further notice due to these shortages. There have also been a few instances in which the car ferry schedule has also been impacted by the deck officer shortage, but those instances have been more limited in frequency.
The problem came to light back in April when Davis alerted the boat line's Board of Governors that the Authority suddenly found itself short four deck officers who serve a critical role aboard every ferry trip. Davis said at the time that there was a backlog in the licensing of new deck officers, which was leading to delays in replacing the four deck officers who were sidelined for reasons ranging from medical to family leave to retirement.
Rob Ranney, who serves as Nantucket’s representative on the Steamship’s board of governors and as its chairman, also added back in April that the Steamship wasn’t the only maritime operation facing this issue.
“This is an industry-wide problem,” Ranney said. “Like when the airlines say they’re running short on pilots - licensed officers are tough to replace and there’s few people coming up through the ranks. It’s something the Steamship is jumping on but it's going to take time to resolve.”
The full, revised fast ferry schedule can be accessed here.