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Bids Due Soon for Two New Ferries

A pre-bid conference for companies that want to submit bids to build two ferry boats that ply the waters between St. Thomas and St. John is scheduled for Sept. 15. It begins at 10 a.m. at Property and Procurement’s Subbase, St. Thomas conference room.

Proposals must be received by 4 p.m. Sept. 29.

The Request for Proposals sent out by Property and Procurement is the latest development in a long story concerning the ferry boat franchise between St. Thomas and St. John. It is held by two St. John-based companies, Transportation Services and Varlack Ventures, which have long maintained that they need financial help to keep the route operating.

In mid-August, Government House announced that the government had received $200,000 from the Federal Highway Administration to help pay for two, 300-passenger ferries. The Public Works Department has $5.2 million on hand to fund the rest of the purchase price, a press release from Government House said. Those boats will fly the VITRAN flag, the same as the territory’s public buses.

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Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls could not be reached for further comment.

However, Transportation Services Manager Kenrick Augustus doesn’t think the $5.4 million is enough to build two ferries.

“The kind of vessel that’s suitable is going to cost about $4 million,” Augustus said

Each ferry company will lease one of the vessels from the government to augment its operations. Each company currently operates three ferries.

Manager Delrise Varlack said that while she won’t turn down the lease of the 300-passenger ferry, she would prefer that the government buy a ferry that carries both cars and passengers because Oarlock Ventures and Transportation Services have an exclusive franchise for ferry traffic between St. Thomas and St. John. She said that one that fit 20 cars and 400 passengers would fit the company’s needs.

Varlack said if the ferry companies carried passengers cars, the barges could focus on commercial traffic.

When the new ferries will arrive is anyone’s guess, Varlack said.

“Until I see the vessel coming in the harbor or get the key…,” Varlack said.

Augustus, who said the government purchase of ferries has been on the burner since the previous administration, also commented on when the ferries will arrive.

“I’m optimistic that this will come to pass in my lifetime,” he said, laughing.

According to Varlack, the government is considering leasing used vessels to fill in the gap until the new ferry boats are built.

Although the process has been slow, St. John Administrator Leona Smith was pleased that the effort to get the new ferry boats was under way.

“It’s a plus being that every year, they’re getting harder and harder to maintain,” Smith said of the current ferry fleet.

Obtain bid documents from Sal Griffith at Property and Procurement. Call 774-0828, extension 230.

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A pre-bid conference for companies that want to submit bids to build two ferry boats that ply the waters between St. Thomas and St. John is scheduled for Sept. 15. It begins at 10 a.m. at Property and Procurement’s Subbase, St. Thomas conference room.

Proposals must be received by 4 p.m. Sept. 29.

The Request for Proposals sent out by Property and Procurement is the latest development in a long story concerning the ferry boat franchise between St. Thomas and St. John. It is held by two St. John-based companies, Transportation Services and Varlack Ventures, which have long maintained that they need financial help to keep the route operating.

In mid-August, Government House announced that the government had received $200,000 from the Federal Highway Administration to help pay for two, 300-passenger ferries. The Public Works Department has $5.2 million on hand to fund the rest of the purchase price, a press release from Government House said. Those boats will fly the VITRAN flag, the same as the territory’s public buses.

Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls could not be reached for further comment.

However, Transportation Services Manager Kenrick Augustus doesn’t think the $5.4 million is enough to build two ferries.

“The kind of vessel that’s suitable is going to cost about $4 million,” Augustus said

Each ferry company will lease one of the vessels from the government to augment its operations. Each company currently operates three ferries.

Manager Delrise Varlack said that while she won’t turn down the lease of the 300-passenger ferry, she would prefer that the government buy a ferry that carries both cars and passengers because Oarlock Ventures and Transportation Services have an exclusive franchise for ferry traffic between St. Thomas and St. John. She said that one that fit 20 cars and 400 passengers would fit the company’s needs.

Varlack said if the ferry companies carried passengers cars, the barges could focus on commercial traffic.

When the new ferries will arrive is anyone’s guess, Varlack said.

“Until I see the vessel coming in the harbor or get the key…,” Varlack said.

Augustus, who said the government purchase of ferries has been on the burner since the previous administration, also commented on when the ferries will arrive.

“I’m optimistic that this will come to pass in my lifetime,” he said, laughing.

According to Varlack, the government is considering leasing used vessels to fill in the gap until the new ferry boats are built.

Although the process has been slow, St. John Administrator Leona Smith was pleased that the effort to get the new ferry boats was under way.

“It’s a plus being that every year, they’re getting harder and harder to maintain,” Smith said of the current ferry fleet.

Obtain bid documents from Sal Griffith at Property and Procurement. Call 774-0828, extension 230.