Amid a shortage of qualified crew members, the Steamship Authority is trimming its summer ferry schedule just weeks after it began.

“We find ourselves in a precarious situation with some recent departures of personnel or unavailability of them, [and] we think it’s best if we do some modifications of the schedule,” general manager Robert Davis said Tuesday at the monthly meeting of the Steamship Authority’s governing board.

Freight operators will be most affected by the changes.

From June 17 through Sept. 5, the authority will no longer run the M/V Sankaty’s three daily weekday round trips on the Vineyard route. The Sankaty can carry about 39 vehicles. 

The Governor ferry, pictured here, is being replaced for the summer by the Woods Hole. — Ray Ewing

The M/V Woods Hole will run in place of the M/V Governor on the Vineyard route. On the Nantucket schedule, the Sankaty will replace the Woods Hole and the high-speed M/V Iyanough will continue to run four round trips a day, instead of adding a fifth round trip as originally scheduled.

Director of shoreside operations Alison Fletcher told the board the authority’s reservations department has begun contacting customers with reservations on the canceled trips, in order to rebook them. 

Meanwhile, Sankaty and Woods Hole trips are closed for bookings until further notice.

The Steamship Authority warned that crew shortages, a nationwide phenomenon, could affect the schedules earlier this month, and several trips on the Vineyard route have been canceled in recent months. 

Staff shortages were not the only disappointments the Steamship Authority board encountered Tuesday morning.

The new M/V Barnstable and the M/V Aquinnah ferries won’t be joining the Steamship Authority fleet until after the summer season, Mr. Davis said. Previous estimates placed the Barnstable in the region’s waters by the middle of June

“They’ll be here before Labor Day. I don’t think that we’ll be able to put them into service before Labor Day,” Mr. Davis said.

The two identical former oil industry support vessels have spent the winter and spring in Alabama undergoing conversion work to become Steamship Authority freight ferries, with the Barnstable previously scheduled to go into service this summer and the Aquinnah expected to follow several weeks later.

Weather delays, additional work required by the U.S. Coast Guard and other change orders have added weeks to the original schedule, said Mr. Davis, asking the board to extend the contractual delivery date from Alabama Shipyard to from April 7 to July 15 for the Barnstable.

The late arrival, coupled with the Steamship Authority’s staffing crunch, likely means the authority will have to hire a delivery crew to bring the Barnstable north, Mr. Davis said.

The Aquinnah, originally due for delivery April 28, is similarly delayed, he said, and will come to the board for a contract extension at next month’s meeting. 

Mark Amundsen, whose title was changed recently from director of marine operations to director of engineering and maintenance, said the ferry conversions have been plagued by shortages of parts and supplies.

“This job was very challenging in every element because of the supply chain. The supply chain is still way off in this country,” Mr. Amundsen told the board.

Chief operating officer Mark Higgins said the new ferries will be worth the wait.

“These vessels are here for us for the next quarter-century,” he said.

The board also agreed with a recommendation from the port council earlier this month to launch the new Steamship Authority website in September, instead of over the summer.

Among other business Tuesday, the board discussed the policy for advertising aboard Steamship Authority vessels and at terminals, at the request of Martha’s Vineyard board member James Malkin following the appearance of a controversial advertising campaign.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is running poster ads on Vineyard ferries with the message reading “Did Your Lobster Kill a Whale?”

The activist nonprofit also issued a press release calling attention to its Vineyard campaign.

Mr. Malkin said his constituents have complained about the message, and he called for an immediate moratorium on new advertising contracts until the board reviews the authority’s policy on ads.

Advertising revenue averages about $100,000 a year, Mr. Davis told the board.

Falmouth board member Peter Jeffrey, an attorney, cautioned that the boat line can’t lawfully pick and choose its advertisers. 

Mr. Malkin said he would rather forgo all advertising revenue than have riders exposed to ads like the PETA poster.

Board members agreed to discuss the policy at next month’s meeting.

The Steamship Authority’s contract with PETA runs until October, Steamship spokesperson Sean Driscoll said Tuesday.