New Passenger Ferries Cruise Through Sea Trials


Department of Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls, third from left at top left, with representatives of Varlack Ventures and Transportations Services, the boat building company and others, on a dock in New Orleans ahead of the sea trials for the new ferries: “Red Hook I” and “Cruz Bay I,” below. A peek at the new ferry’s interior, far below.


Department of Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls recently traveled to Louisiana to take part in the initial sea trials of two new ferry vessels which will carry passengers between Cruz Bay and St. Thomas next year.

Representatives of Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services — which own the franchise rights for ferry runs between St. Thomas and St. John — also attended the recent sea trials for Red Hook I and Cruz Bay I.

The vessels are being constructed by Harvey, Lousiana-based Midship Marine, located across the Mississippi River from New Orleans.

The sea trials were originally scheduled for early October, but were postponed due to the threat of severe weather from Hurricane Karen. The first sea trail finally occurred  on Monday, October 21, and the second was on Tuesday, October 22.

Smalls was on board for both of those trials, as well as the representatives of both Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services, according to information from Government House.

The sea trials consisted of four-hour voyages along the Harvey Canal, which enabled the operators to experience the new state-of-the-art vessels first-hand.

The vessels are 85-foot catamarans capable of carrying 250 passengers each. They will replace the aging ferry boats currently being used by Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services.

While Varlack and Transportation Services will operate the new ferry vessels, they will not own them. The vessels will be owned by the V.I. government.

The new passenger ferry vessels cost more than $3.5 million each and are being paid for with $3 million from the American Recovery and Rehabilitation Act as well as about $2.7 million in Ferryboat

Discretionary funding accumulated through the years, according to information from DPW.

The remaining cost, about $2.1 million, is being covered by DPW funding from the Federal Highway Administration.

The vessels, originally scheduled to arrive in the territory by November, still need to be inspected by U.S. Coast Guard officials before setting sail for the territory. They are expected to be in local waters by December, at which point they will be inspected once again by USCG.

The new catamaran ferry vessels are scheduled to be carrying passengers between Red Hook and Cruz Bay — in style — by the end of the year.