April 12, 2005 Travelers on the passenger ferries between St. Thomas and St. John can expect to start paying a $2 fee on each item of baggage they bring onto the boats starting this weekend.
Kendrick Augustus, general manager of Transportation Services of St. John, said Wednesday the fare would probably go into effect on April 16.
Augustus, along with a representative from Varlack Ventures, a attended a Public Services Commission meeting last week, where the baggage fees were addresses.
Attorney Claudette Ferron represented the two ferry companies. She told the commission the companies could no longer provide free baggage transportation service to their passengers. She said the baggage took up a lot of room on the boat, sometimes displacing passengers.
She said the companies' fuel costs were "astronomical" and the companies were bleeding and need to recoup some of their costs.
Commissioner Yvette Canegata-Jones asked, "How can we not let them charge when the law allows them to charge?"
The board approved the fee with the understanding that charge would be taken into consideration as the commission looks at possible fare increases for the ferries.
The commission also asked for documentation to support the assertion that the $2 per- bag fee would offset the rising fuel costs and questioned whether the new charge would not ultimately result in more administrative costs.
Representatives from both companies acknowledged that an application to raise ticket prices would be forthcoming but stressed that minimal fees to handle excess baggage is standard in the transportation industry and would help them to generate revenues prior to their fee increase.
Regular carry-on items will still be free. They will be defined as they are by the airline industry; they must be small enough to fit under the seat or to be held on the lap.
In other business at Friday's PSC meeting commissioners Valencio Jackson and Alric Simmonds were re-elected as chairman and vice-chairman respectively. It was also announced that the PSC will be launching a Web site within the next few months.
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