Arrival of New Passenger Ferries Is Delayed, But “Soon Come”

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The catamaran vessels will be 85 feet in length and capable of carrying up to 250 passengers.

While sea trials for two new passenger ferry boats slated to ply the waters between St. Thomas and St. John were postponed recently, the vessels are still expected to be in operation by the end of the year.

The vessels are being built by Harvey, Lousiana-based Midship Marine which was forced to postpone its scheduled sea trials.

“The vessels were scheduled to do their ‘sea trials’ as Hurricane Karen threatened the Louisiana and Florida coasts,” according to a new released issued by V.I. Public Services Commission. “A sea trial is the testing phase of a watercraft including boats, ships and submarines and is designed to test a boat’s seaworthiness. It is also referred to as a ‘shakedown cruise’ by Navy personnel and is the last milestone before the shipbuilder turns the vessel over to the owner.”

With the sea trials postponed, the vessels’ expected arrival in the territory was postponed last week as well. Department of Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls granted Midship Marine a 30-day extension to deliver the vessels.

The new sea trials were set for Monday, October 21, and Tuesday, October 22,  after which they will be inspected by thr U.S. Coast Guard before setting sail for the Virgin Islands. The vessels are expected to arrive by late November at which point they will again be inspected by local USCG officials before accepting passengers riding between St. Thomas and Cruz Bay.

The new vessels will be 85-foot catamarans capable of carrying 250 passengers. They will replace the aging ferry boats currently being used by Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services, which own the franchise to operate the runs between St. Thomas and Cruz Bay.

Varlack and Transportation Services own the current boats, but the new vessels will be owned by the V.I. government. They are being paid for with $7.6 million in federal funds, from Department of Transportation and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants.

The new vessels should be in the territory next month and hopefully in operation by the end of the year, according to the PSC news release.