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Nantucket stores are stranded after UPS forgot to book the island’s trucks on ferries

Glitzy Nantucket residents face a summer of serious inconvenience after the island’s main carrier forgot to reserve seats on its ferry service, which is now sold out.

Residents and visitors planning to spend part of the busy summer season on the affluent island of Massachusetts are faced with having to do so without a UPS delivery. That came after the delivery giant’s blundering bosses ignored the usual offer to reserve seats for its trucks on Nantucket’s Steam Authority ferries.

Upscale shops on the WASP-filled island, which lies 30 miles off the Cape Cod coast, are now faced with shelves devoid of the designer items picked up by vacationers.

Those visiting the island have also been warned that they are much less likely to have goods they order delivered online, with UPS shipping Amazon packages to Nantucket.

Resident William D Cohan believes the pushiness of the island’s well-connected residents — including Secretary of State John Kerry and Google boss Eric Schmidt — will eventually solve the problem.

The writer told the Boston Globe: ‘In Nantucket, if you make enough noise, they’ll fix it. The summer people will have to get their two outfits that they ordered from Hermès online.’

But Steam Authority says its ability to dock on additional boats is limited by the number of ships it controls, as well as staffing levels, meaning no clear or easy solution is available.

According to the Globe, the blunder appears to be the result of an oversight on the part of UPS. Last fall, Steam Authority sent its usual advance notice to courier companies offering them first refusal on bookings on its ships traveling to and from the island. They did this well before the release of the summer season ferry slots to the general public, which will be released in January for travel between May and October.

But UPS did not respond and also ignored a follow-up from Steam Authority, until someone finally realized what was going on and sent a panic response.

UPS will not make deliveries to Nantucket after refusing to request reservations for its transport truck to Steam Authority – one of the island’s main freight shippers by boat

Nantucket (pictured) may experience a shortage of goods during the summer, when city dwellers usually come on vacation, if the problem is not resolved

Nantucket (pictured) may experience a shortage of goods during the summer, when city dwellers usually come on vacation, if the problem is not resolved

UPS is the largest carrier of standard deliveries to the affluent island community and typically submits ferry requests months in advance, along with other freight shippers. Many Nantucket stores rely on getting the clothing, TVs, hardware and other goods they sell to residents and summer visitors.

“It will put us in a world of pain,” Shantaw Bloise, business manager at the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce, told The Globe.

“I can’t imagine how we can function by relying solely on DHL, FedEx and the postal service,” she added.

Nantucket is located 30 miles (48 km) off the coast of Cape Coad and 121 miles from Boston. Travelers can take a leisurely two-hour and 15-minute boat ride on one of the Steamship Authority ferries from Hyannis to Nantucket.

After missing the priority booking window, UPS rushed to get all available seats for its trucks, said James Malkin, a board member for the Steamship Authority, which operates ferries to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

“But they don’t have what they need,” Malkin told The Globe.

“It will put us in a world of pain,” Shantaw Bloise, business manager at the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce, told The Boston Globe.

If UPS and Steamship Authority don't fix the problem by May, many rich island retailers will have to rely on other carriers to import their orders for private deliveries.

If UPS and Steamship Authority don’t fix the problem by May, many rich island retailers will have to rely on other carriers to import their orders for private deliveries.

Stephanie Correia and her shop, Stephanie's Nantucket, a popular gift shop that sells glassware, bags and purses

Stephanie Correia and her shop, Stephanie’s Nantucket, a popular gift shop that sells glassware, bags and purses

Stephanie Correia said she relies on UPS to supply the inventory for her Main Street store, Stephanie’s, which sells clothing and homewares. The service is crucial during the summer, she said, when her company makes 75 percent of its annual profit.

“It’s a lifeline for business, for homeowners, for Amazon,” she said.

Some other shopkeepers are looking for other ways to get their goods to the island. But some businesses and residents said they are confident the problem will be resolved.

“Usually they set up another ship” in the event of a schedule disruption, said Vanessa Moore, who works as a customer service representative at Nantucket Housefitters.

However, the ferry operator said there may not be a way to increase the service.

“We are currently at the maximum number of routes in terms of number of boats and crew,” said Sean Driscoll, a spokesman for the authority. “Maybe there are a few trips here and there that we can add, but not on any systemic basis.”

“There is no secret tunnel for the freight forwarders,” he added.

UPS is the largest parcel carrier in the US, but threatens to lose Nantucket to rival couriers that also deliver to the island, such as FedEx

UPS is the largest parcel carrier in the US, but threatens to lose Nantucket to rival couriers that also deliver to the island, such as FedEx

One problem is that since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an increase in people living permanently on the island, with tourism taking precedence over freight. Holiday home prices are also rising as city dwellers want to work remotely from the island.

“Reservations for this year surpassed all previous years by significant percentages,” Malkin said. Nantucket is regularly one of the most expensive counties for vacation homes in the US, according to the National Association of Realtors.

UPS said it won’t have a problem shipping to Martha’s Vineyard, 37 miles away, or a two-and-a-half-hour ferry ride from Nantucket, although both islands typically book freight deliveries on the same form.

Retailers and local residents are expected to be the ones most affected by the UPS outage if the issue is not resolved by May.

Nantucket Cottage Hospital, the island’s only hospital, relies on FedEx for supplies. While other carriers typically ship food, fuel and large shipments.

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