Commissioner Hopes For V.I. Pride in New Ferry Name

Help choose the name of the new St. John-St. Thomas ferry by emailing a suggestion to DPWPIO@DPW.VI.GOV. (Photo rendering courtesy of Incat Crowther)

Officially, the contest to name the new St. John-St. Thomas ferry is open to all suggestions, Public Works Commissioner Derek Gabriel said Wednesday, but he hoped the name would emphasize the character of both islands and a general sense of Virgin Islands pride.

The ferry-naming sweepstakes, which ends March 22, has generated scores of suggestions in less than a week. Some recognize people who helped shape the USVI marine industry, while others are more playful, whimsical and winsome. Names that emphasize debauchery, like Rum Runner or Bar-racuda or Booze Cruiser, don’t have much of a chance of being chosen by Public Works’ informal naming committee. The ferry carries more than tourists and bar hoppers. It’s a daily commuter route and school bus for St. John children attending classes on St. Thomas.

Gabriel didn’t have suggested names, only a charm he hoped could be captured: community, culture, the unique USVI spirit.

“The naming of a vessel is something that really signifies the soul, if you will, of the vessel,” Gabriel said. “I wanted to give the public a chance to weigh in because this is our ferry, this is their ferry.”

Gabriel laughed about any formality in choosing the name, saying Public Works would review recommendations sent to DPWPIO@DPW.VI.GOV with an eye for a name that represents V.I. identity. Name choosers could also use the ferry’s route between Red Hook and Love City for inspiration, he said.

“Something that speaks to the territory as a whole, something that embodies our rich history and culture, those are things that we will discuss,” he said. “We really just want to see what the territory has put out there. I’m really excited. I had little to no expectations going into it. I really just want to get a good name, something that says Virgin Islands.”

The new diesel-powered, 302-passenger, 104-foot long, ADA-compliant catamaran was paid for with two federal grants. The air-conditioned cabin can accommodate 202 passengers — including five wheelchair spaces — and another 100 passengers will fit outside. The ferry will feature a restroom but no food or drink outlet. The appropriate passenger load was determined by analyzing ticket sales, Gabriel said.

Louisiana-based aluminum-hull shipbuilder Gulf Craft LLC won the contract to build the ferry — not to be confused with United Arab Emirates-based ultra-luxury shipbuilder Gulf Craft Inc. The ferry was designed by Incat Crowther, also in Louisiana.

“For me, it’s a really prideful moment to be able to deliver a ferry for the people of the territory,” Gabriel said. “I’m really encouraged to see our people participating.”

The ferry is expected to arrive in the territory before April 2025 and will likely enter service in May, he said. Public Works was still working out which company would operate the new ferry, but it would probably be one of the current franchise holders, he said.