After missing a hoped-for deadline of the end of 2013, Department of Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls is pushing to get the new Cruz Bay to Red Hook ferries in service in February.
The ferries, which were built in Louisiana and cost $3.5 million each, were paid for with federal funds. They will be owned by the government and leased to Transportation Services and Varlack Ventures, which have the franchises for ferry service between Red Hook and Cruz Bay.
The ferries underwent sea trials in late October and, after initial U.S. Coast Guard inspections in Louisiana, the vessels arrived in in the territory in November and were spotted in Cruz Bay in early December before being docked in Crown Bay, St. Thomas, where they have sat ever since while waiting to be put into service.
DPW hosted an official dedication ceremony, complete with champagne christening, December 6.
DPW, Franchisees Working Out Details
The government and the two franchise operators are working out the details of the two private franchises operating vessels owned by the government, according to DPW.
“Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls met recently with representatives of both ferryboat franchises, Transportation Services and Varlack Ventures, to discuss the time-line for placing the two recently acquired ferryboats for the Cruz Bay-Red Hook route into service,” according to a DPW press release dated January 29.
The discussion centered on insurance policies for the new ferries, the Management Service Agreement and the final inspection and certification requirements which must be completed prior to the maiden voyages of Red Hook I and Cruz Bay I, DPW officials said in the January 29 press release.
“I am anticipating that once these requirements have been met, the vessels will be placed into service… within the next 30 days,” said Smalls who met January 22 with representatives of both ferryboat franchise.
“While the initial plan was to have these vessels in service by December, 2013, obtaining the requisite insurance and securing the necessary approvals from the regulatory agencies took longer than anticipated,” Smalls said Wednesday, January 29.
DPW and the operators remain committed to ensuring the timely completion of all of the prerequisite requirements to obtain full compliance and certification that will ensure the safety of passengers and crew as well as the vessels, Smalls added.
USCG Awaits Inspection Requests
U.S. Coast Guard officials told Tradewinds in mid-January they were awaiting a request from DPW and the ferry companies to conduct final inspections for certification and crew training – which “won’t take long – once we get word,” according to Lt. Commander Bryson Spangler.
“We will also be doing safety drills, but we can’t do that until the crews are identified,” Lt. Cmdr. Spangler said.
Hopefully, the only stumbling block remaining is determining which of the operators gets the vessel named Cruz Bay I and which one gets the one commissioned Red Hook I.
Maybe the government officials and the ferry company owners can agree on a coin flip.