After missing a hoped-for deadline of the end of 2013, Department of Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls was pushing to get the two new Cruz Bay to Red Hook ferries into service in February.
That deadline came and went without the two 85-foot aluminum ferries leaving their berths in Crown Bay by the end of February and now Smalls reportedly has said all the paperwork has been completed between the V.I. government and the ferry companies and the only thing holding up the boats is their final U.S. Coast Guard inspections.
On Friday, March 7, DPW Comm. Smalls was quoted in published reports as saying that the last piece to be put in place is the final Coast Guard inspection and certification of the franchised operators.
The USCG inspections have not yet been scheduled by DPW, according to a USCG spokesperson.
The ferries underwent sea trials in late October and, after initial USCG inspections and certification in Louisiana, the vessels arrived in in the territory in November and were 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.
The ferries, which were built in Louisiana and cost $3.25 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.
DPW, Franchisees Working Out Details
The government and the two franchise operators have been working out the details of the two private franchises operating vessels owned by the government, according to a DPW press release in January.
The discussions 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.
DPW Commissioner Smalls, who met January 22 with representatives of both ferryboat franchise, projected at that time that the vessels “… will be placed into service within the next 30 days.”
“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 told Tradewinds 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 said at the time.
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.
“As soon as the company schedules inspection with us, we’ll be ready to go and inspect,” a USCG official reportedly told the Virgin Islands Daily News.
There has been no announcement as to which of the operators will get the vessel named Cruz Bay I and which one gets the one commissioned Red Hook I.