August 15, 2022

UPS missed a priority window to make ferry reservations for its trucks to get to Nantucket this summer — leaving businesses scrambling to accommodate affluent locals and moneyed visitors.

The shipping courier failed to request reservations for its trucks during an early priority window before ferries for the island’s busiest season from May to October were booked close to capacity, the Boston Globe reported Sunday.

“It’s going to put us in a world of hurt,” Shantaw Bloise, business manager at the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce, told the newspaper. “I can’t imagine how we’ll be able to function just relying on DHL, FedEx and the Postal Service.”

James Malkin, a governing board member of the Steamship Authority, which regulates ferry operations between mainland Massachusetts and Nantucket, said UPS didn’t respond last fall when it sent paperwork to freight shippers to make ferry reservations for this summer.

A UPS spokesperson said the courier is working to find other solutions.
Kim Raff/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Steamship Authority even reached out as to why UPS didn’t respond ahead of the reservations being opened to the public, Malkin said.

“Someone at UPS dropped the ball,” he told the Globe.

It’s unclear exactly when, but at some point, the “light bulb went off” and UPS recognized the error and scooped up whatever reservations for it trucks to reach Nantucket’s distribution center, Malkin said.

UPS photographed on July 12, 2021 in Berlin, Germany.
UPS’ ferry reservations to Martha’s Vineyard appear unaffected.
Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images

“But they don’t have what they need,” Malkin continued.

Stephanie Correia, who operates Stephanie’s, a clothing and home goods store on Main Street, said UPS is a “lifeline” for businesses like hers and questioned how the company could drop the ball so blatantly.

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“You cross your T’s and dot your I’s,” Correia told the Globe. “I’ve been in business for 26 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

A ferry passes by Brant Point Lighthouse in Nantucket, MA on November 17, 2021
One Nantucket shop owner said she’s even considering hauling her wares to the island herself.
Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A message seeking comment from UPS was not immediately returned early Monday, but a company spokesperson said the courier is working to find other solutions.

“UPS has ferry reservations and is working on other transportation options to ensure packages are delivered on time to the island during the busy summer season,” UPS told the Globe.

UPS’ ferry reservations to Martha’s Vineyard appear unaffected, the Globe reported, despite bulk reservations for both islands typically being requested on the same form.

But if the disruption to UPS’ service to Nantucket isn’t resolved by May, retailers and everyday residents may suffer the consequences of low supplies of food, fuel and appliances.

“We get two UPS deliveries a day,” Vanessa Moore, of Nantucket Housefitters, told the Globe. “Our clients won’t be getting the tiles for their bathroom floors.”

But simply adding capacity to the fright shippers might not be doable, a Steamship Authority spokesman said.

Packages displaying Amazon.com Inc. prime logos move down a chute at a United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) Worldport facility in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. United Parcel Service Inc. is scheduled to release earnings figures on January 30.
UPS recognized the error and scooped up whatever reservations for it trucks to reach Nantucket’s distribution center.
Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“We’re basically at the maximum number of routes right now in terms of the number of boats and the number of crew members,” spokesman Sean Driscoll said. “There might be a couple of trips here and there we can add, but not on any kind of systemic basis … There’s no secret tunnel for the freight shippers.”

One Nantucket shop owner, meanwhile, told Bloise she’s even considering hauling her wares to the island herself.

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“People are going to have to get creative,” the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce business manager told the Globe.