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Friday, April 19, 2024
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RETURN OF FAST FERRY STILL UNDECIDED

Whether the "fast ferry" that has plied the sea between St. Thomas and St. Croix for the past month will return in December remains to be seen, but its operators are pleased with their experience in the territory so far.
"People would really like to see us come back," said Kevin Matthews, director of operations for Boston Harbor Cruises, the company running the $10-million, 600-passenger Salacia on a trial basis. "We still have to go back and add up the numbers."
If the company returns it would operate from December through April.
Over the last month the ferry has carried anywhere from 75 to 450 passengers on each of its three round-trip runs between the islands, Matthews said. And the response from riders has been one of overwhelming support, especially for the smooth ride and affordability, he said.
Two factors affecting the ferry's future will be dock-side infrastructure and V.I. Port Authority fees, one of the reasons given by the operators of the now-defunct hydrofoil for going out of business.
For example, the Port Authority charges ferry operators a 50-cent per-passenger tariff on vessels running between St. Thomas and St. John. The tariff for a ferry making the St. Thomas-St. Croix run is $5.70. Then there are wharfage fees.
Matthews also said that the sheer size of the Salacia calls for different dock-side infrastructure than the typical 49-passenger ferries that ply the territory’s waters, including ticketing and loading facilities and security for the vessel.
"To fill hundreds of seats consistently every day, I have to keep my prices down," Matthews said. "Adding $3 here and $5 there, then your ticket is going to go up to $75 or $80."
Matthews said he hopes Port Authority officials recognize that the fast ferry is an amenity to the islands and that they are open to working with the company.
One thing the company has learned is that if it comes back in December, it will try to base out of St. Croix because most of the early-morning commute originates there.
"This is an amenity to the islands. It really unites all three islands with affordable transportation," Matthews said. "This was a learning experience for everyone."

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