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Crew shortage upends Steamship Authority holiday travel

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The absence of one crew member on Memorial Day forced the Steamship Authority to cancel its evening ferry service between Woods Hole and Martha's Vineyard.

Passengers of the M/V Governor were notified and rebooked earlier travel ahead of the two canceled evening roundtrips. Online ticketing was suspended because of the crew shortage and unrelated to technology, Steamship Authority communications director Sean Driscoll said.

"We're facing the same issues that the airlines faced over Memorial Day weekend," Driscoll said. "We're not immune from those forces. In fact, it's a little more challenging, because our marine crews need to be Coast Guard-certified, and that process takes time as well. We're challenged just as everybody else is, and working hard to recruit new quality employees."

It was the Steamship Authority's second "crewing issue" in a week to upend its ferry schedule. On May 23, a departure was delayed by more than an hour due to staffing.

Technology malfunctions have also undermined efficient ticketing over the last year. An air-conditioning unit failure on May 22 knocked the Steamship Authority's in-house computer servers offline, which halted web and in-person reservations. And the FBI is investigating the cyberattack that shut down online bookings one year ago this week.

About 3 million passengers take ferries to and from the Islands each year.

Patrick Flanary is a dad, journalist, and host of Morning Edition.