VITRAN Ferries Out of Service — Was Festival Service Trial Run?


Cruz Bay I and Red Hook I are currently not in service and docked in Cruz Bay.

As the one-year anniversary of their arrival in the U.S. Virgin Islands approaches, the $3 million-plus (each) VITRAN ferries have been parked up at the Loredon L. Boynes dock in Cruz Bay and they don’t appear to be going anywhere soon.

While there has been no announcement from Commissioner Darryl Smalls of the Department of Public Works, the bright blue, multi-hulled vessels emblazoned with the VITRAN logo were taken out of service quietly in early August after being abruptly put into service at the start of the St. John Festival in June.

There were reports that government officials are now saying the ferries had been operating under a 30-day “trial period” and other reports that the insurance had expired for the government-owned vessels, clearly emblazoned VITRAN, but DPW officials did not respond to requests for information.

The vessels had been heralded on their arrival in the territory from the stateside shipyard in November 2013, but the government could not reach operating agreements with the two companies holding franchises to provide ferry service between Red Hook and Cruz Bay. Government and ferry company officials did not release the terms of any operating agreement  agreement which resulted in the two ferry companies, Transportation Services Inc. and Varlack Ventures, suddenly beginning operating the vessels in early July.

After a litany of complaints, including allegations that passenger capacity of the new vessels was insufficient for the daily peak “commuting” needs of the island workforce — resulting in scores of commuters being stranded on peak weekday runs — and claims of uncomfortable conditions for riders in even moderate seas on the passage between Cruz Bay and Red Hook.

“You have to ask some questions,” one ferry company official said — while declining to answer questions.

“You should take a ride,” one captain suggested to a reporter in early August as the summer brought increasingly higher seas — and the ferries subsequently came out of service.
Ferry company officials continued to decline comment.