Talk about a ship without a rudder.

The Steamship Authority needs to get its act together after a salty and critical 140-page review by Seattle-based consultants HMS Consulting and Technical. The firm was charged with looking into what led to a host of mechanical problems and cancellations, even stranding passengers for five hours on a disabled ferry.

It will be well worth the $200,000 paid for the report if the Steamship Authority follows through on the report's recommendations. If they don't, it will be a total waste of the quasi-public authority's money.

The advice given was clear: the weak leadership lacked a clear vision. Other concerns raised included competing clicks that worked against each other at the authority's expense, and lack of a safety management system—especially not learning from near-misses. There were numerous other concerns as well.

On St. Patrick's Day, for example, the loss of power stranding 72 passengers for hours was caused by not fixing one simple issue that contributed to dozens of smaller problems.

You've heard the expression "penny wise and pound foolish." Well, management was so obsessed with small cost reductions that they lost sight of the larger picture. Managers were too focused on day-to-day skirmishes rather than on long-range planning. And when problems occurred, the tendency was to blame the employees for the boats' failures.

Do you remember when earlier in the season, the Steamship Authority put blame on an outside contractor, accusing the company of doing slipshod work? Which, of course, the contractor vehemently denied, saying nothing could be further from the truth.

And as long as we're speaking about the truth, the Steamship Authority could learn from its mistakes—if it wasn't so busy denying them.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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