Senator at Large Craig Barshinger, busy canvassing for his first re-election bid, is putting his recent dispute with certain ferry company employees on the “back burner” — at least until after November’s election.
While the senator is concentrating on the future, he issued a press release outlining the events that transpired since his Friday, September 29, incident with a Transportation Services employee that resulted in his forced removal from the boat.
“I plan to put this on the back burner for the rest of the campaign season, but study it thoroughly after the election,” he said. “We don’t want to be fixated on one issue. We want to keep moving forward.”
Forcibly Removed from Ferry
“On Friday, September 29, Barshinger was forcibly removed from the ferry after he paid — under protest — for a carry-on bag which the company had allowed him to carry for no fee on past trips,” according to the senator’s prepared statement.
Barshinger was not charged with any wrong-doing.
On Saturday, September 30, the senator had the same carry-on bag with him as he returned to St. John from St. Thomas on the same ferry, the Caribe Cay, and was not charged.
Two days later, on Monday, October 2, Barshinger attempted to board the same boat and was told this time he had to stand in line and purchase a baggage tag.
Both St. John ferry companies are franchised by the government to provide the runs between St. Thomas and St. John and regulated by the Public Services Commission, which does not create competition, Barshinger explained.
“The ferries have a franchise,” he said. “Therefore, we have to scrutinize them because there is no healthy competition. You can choose which barge you like the best, which is the essence of good St. John/American business.”
The senator said he is not the only person receiving poor service from ferry employees.
“Reports of spotty and irregular handling of baggage on the ferry docks reach my St. John office on a regular basis, but this is the first time I had experienced it first hand,” Barshinger stated in the press release.
In an effort to set the record straight, Barshinger met with the manager of Transportation Services Kenrick Augus-tus and Varlack Ventures’ manager Delrise Varlack.
Captain Decides What is Checked
“Augustus was unable to define which bags are charged and which are not, which troubled me deeply,” Barshinger stated in the release. “He said it was up to the captain. Regarding the suit bag, Augustus affirmed the captain’s decision that it required a baggage tag, although he was not able to pinpoint why.”
Augustus did “seem” committed to improving the level of service his employees provide, the senator noted in his prepared statement.
Varlack Ventures’ manager did offer some criteria.
“Delrise Varlack opined that any bag that stays with the passenger and can be held in the lap need not have a baggage tag,” the release stated. “She indicated that Barshinger’s suit bag did not need a tag.”
The issue of what actually can be defined as checked baggage is nothing new. In May, the senator held a town meeting which focused on water transportation to resolve the issue.
PSC Sets Standard, To No Avail
“When we had the water transportation meeting Alecia Wells, the Public Services Chairwoman, said she knew about the problem and we thought it was resolved,” said Barshinger. “If a bag would be checked on an air plane, you need a baggage ticket for it on the ferry. Following that criteria, I shouldn’t be charged for my carry-on.”
“Evidently the clarity of the PSC’s ruling didn’t make it to all concerned in the ferry companies,” according to Barshinger’s prepared statement.
The senator said he plans to file a formal compliant with the PSC.