June 19, 2008 — The two ferry companies that ply the waters between St. Thomas and St. John filed an official request Thursday with the Public Services Commission for an emergency meeting to discuss a fuel surcharge and reduced schedule.
Claudette Ferron, attorney for ferry operators Transportation Services and Varlack Ventures, made a similar request Tuesday but did not put it into "emergency motion for rehearing" form.
PSC Director Keithley Joseph said Thursday the PSC is polling commissioners to determine if they'll agree to a June 26 date for the meeting. However, he said that some of the commissioners were not available, so the poll was not complete.
"The PSC does understand the problem," Joseph said.
The ferry companies want to increase fares by $2 person for all categories and reduce the schedule because of the rising cost of fuel. In addition to regular $5 tickets, the surcharge would be applied to the $3 commuter tickets, the $2.50 bulk tickets, the $1.50 student tickets, the $1.25 senior tickets, and the $1 fare for children under age 12.
"This unprecedented increase in fuel cost is causing further erosion of the ferry boat operators' already dire financial condition and jeopardizing the viability of scheduled ferry boat service between St. Thomas and St. John," Ferron wrote in the motion.
Ferron indicated in the motion that ferry operators are now paying more than $5.25 per gallon of fuel, which she called a 300 percent increase in just two years.
She also said a request for a 50 cent fuel surcharge on ferry fares made five months ago and a May request to reduce the schedule were denied.
Joseph explained the requests were turned down because the PSC is in the midst of a rate investigation that is expected to wrap up in August.
"We don't know the true figures," he said.
Ferron could not be reached for comment, but she indicated in her motion that the ferry companies want to eliminate three daytime and three nighttime runs in both directions on the Red Hook and Cruz Bay route. This would put the schedule at every other hour. The ferry companies would also reduce the Cruz Bay to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas runs to three a day in each direction. Ferron said they would run morning, midday and late afternoon.
She complained in her motion that the ferry companies have not yet received the $265,000 subsidy promised by the local government.
Ferron put the daily losses to the ferry companies at $3,800 to $4,000.
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