Short Term Deal on Ferries Said Near After Months of Operation, DPW Chief



The new VITRAN catamaran ferries have proved very popular with visitors and commuters.



CRUZ BAY — After six months in operation — and repeated assurances by the former Department of Public Works Commissioner Darryl Small that allowed the private corporation ferry franchisees to operate the government owned vessels — the commissioner-designee for Public Works say it will take more time before an agreement to operate government owned ferries is complete.

Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services of St. John took possession of the Red Hook I and the Cruz Bay I, respectively, last year.

The new vessels, part of the VITRAN public transit fleet, were provided to the territory by the U.S. Department of Transportation at a cost of $3.25 million apiece. They were supplied to the two companies holding the franchises to provide daily commuter service between St. John and St. Croix.

Public Works Commissioner-designee Gustav James says he’s eying short term and a long term agreements, but the arrangement requires documentation between the franchise holders and Public Works.

“We have an agreement in principal. It’s a matter of getting the paperwork through the system,” James said. But over the next six months, he added he wanted to add language to the agreement, looking at revenues derived from commuter ferry services, the cost of the vessel, management of the physical property and other matters.

“We want to have a long term analysis of the operating costs,” James said.

A spokesperson for St. John’s resident Senator-At-Large said it was encouraging to hear Public Works was drawing closer to entering a written agreement with the franchise ferry companies.

“All we knew was there was no agreement,” said Nicolle Bollentini, chief of staff for Senator-At-Large Almando “Rocky” Liburd, who had promised to resolve the issue in April.

Ironically, the port pontoon of one of the two vessels, Red Hook I, was damaged in early 2015 when the vessel struck the Loredon L. Boynes Ferry Dock in Cruz Bay and repaired within days without any information on the cost of the repair, liability for the incident or insurance.