The territory’s two sleek new catamaran ferries, which were christened in a Dec. 6 ceremony at the Crown Bay marina, should be plying the waters between St. Thomas and St. John soon.
Department of Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls said Wednesday afternoon that he met and ironed out details with the franchise operators Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services earlier in the day.
"We went over their contracts and terms of expectation for receipt of the boats," he said, "as well as considerations of the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration."
Smalls said that insurance was the holdup. He had said at the December ceremony that he hoped to have the vessels in operation before Christmas.
"I didn’t have the insurance, so the Coast Guard couldn’t go aboard," Smalls said. ‘I don’t want to jump the gun, but now that we have the government insurance and the contracts executed, we should begin moving passengers between St. Thomas and St. John, once the federal entities give their blessings."
The handsome two-decker boats – the Red Hook 1 and Cruz Bay 1, both with comfortable seating for 201 – will be a blessing to passengers.
At the christening ceremony, Gov. John deJongh Jr. called the boats "more than a dream come true.” He called them “10 years in the planning" and lauded the "strong partnership for the last three years between the Federal Highway Administration Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands Division and the V.I. Department of Public Works."
The governor said, "The boats are designated solely to operate between Red Hook and Cruz Bay." He said the bright blue catamarans cost more than $3.5 million each, with $3 million coming from the Obama administration economic stimulus funds, approximately $2.7 in ferryboat discretionary funding and another $2.1 million from Public Works’ regular lines of funding from the FHA.