Two new ferries sit idle at the Crown Bay dock on St. Thomas. Photo by Ronnie Lockhart
Two brand new federally-funded $3.5 million ferries sitting idle at Crown Bay on St. Thomas should be in operation soon, according to Department of Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls.
The DPW Commissioner had previously told St. John Tradewinds the new ferries — Red Hook I and Cruz Bay I — would be carrying passengers between St. Thomas and St. John by the end of 2013.
“I had hoped to get them on line by now and that didn’t happen,” Smalls said on Friday afternoon, January 17. “There is a revised schedule coming up now. I was trying to push the schedule through before the holidays and it just didn’t happen.”
While Smalls did not offer an exact date St. John residents could expect to see the new federally-funded ferries replace the aging boats currently in operation, it shouldn’t be long, he explained.
“There is no major hold up,” said the DPW Commissioner.
The delay is being caused by technical issues and red tape, according to Smalls.
“It was technical and legal issues with this being a federal acquisition and having all the proper documentation,” he said. “There is no major hold up. There should be a revised schedule coming out next week.”
The ferries, costing $3.5 million each, were paid for with $3 million in American Recovery and Rehabilitation Act funds, about $2.7 million in Ferryboat Discretionary funding and about $2.1 million from the Federal Highway Administration. They will be owned by the government and leased to Transportation Services and Varlack Ventures, who have the sole franchises to supply ferry service between St. John and St. Thomas.
The vessels are 85-foot power catamarans capable of carrying 250 passengers each. They were built by Midship Marine in Harvey, Louisiana and underwent sea trials in late October.
After initial U.S. Coast Guard inspections in Louisiana, Cruz Bay I and Red Hook I arrived in the territory in November. They were spotted in Cruz Bay in early December and were then docked in Crown Bay on St. Thomas where DPW hosted an official dedication ceremony complete with shattering champagne bottles on December 6, 2013.
The ferries have been docked at Crown Bay since then with little word until last week about why they have yet to carry passengers across Pillsbury Sound.