The contract was recently signed for two new ferries to ply the Cruz Bay, St. John to Red Hook, St. Thomas run.
In a Government House press release issued Monday, the governor announced that Midship Marine Inc., a Louisiana-based company, will build the 85-foot aluminum catamarans over the next year and a half.
“The two new vessels we are purchasing will greatly improve the speed, service, reliability and capacity of the ferry service that so many Virgin Islanders and tourists depend on every day,” said Gov. John deJongh Jr.
He said once the new ferries are in operation, the passenger experience will be better than it ever has been. It will improve daily life for commuters and enhance the vacations of thousands of tourists who travel between the islands each week, he said.
Transportation Services spokesman Kenrick Augustus said that the ferries are a large part of the territory’s economy since they provide the only link between St. John and St. Thomas.
The two vessels will be owned by the local government and leased to the two companies that currently hold franchises for operations between Cruz Bay and Red Hook.
“I’m happy to hear the news,” Augustus said.
Augustus said Transportation Services and the other franchised company, Varlack Ventures, both provided information on what kind of boat was needed.
Augustus called Midship Marine a reputable company that built several boats already in use in the Virgin Islands. He said they were the Westin Breeze and Caribbean Performance.
According to the governor, the vessels will replace the aging fleet that now shuttles passengers between the islands, but Augustus said the older boats will still be needed to fill in when the new boats are taken out for service.
The older boats will continue on the Cruz Bay to Charlotte Amalie runs, which are not allowed with the new boats because the federal funding covers only the federal highway system. He said the Cruz Bay to Red Hook route is included in the federal highway system but not the Cruz Bay to Charlotte Amalie run.
The $7.6 million cost for the vessels is federally funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Delrise Varlack at Varlack Ventures did not return a call requesting comment.