Coast Guard completes inspections of new ferries

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ST. THOMAS - After six months of delays, the territory is one step closer to having its two new ferries up and running.

According to the V.I. Public Works Department, the U.S. Coast Guard inspections have been holding up final contracts that would enable the new ferries to start running their routes between St. Thomas and St. John.

The U.S. Coast Guard completed its inspection of the Red Hook I on Wednesday, according to Ricardo Castrodad, regional spokesman for the Coast Guard. Red Hook I is one of two new ferries that the territory acquired with $7.6 million in U.S. Transportation Department funds.

The other ferry, Cruz Bay I, passed its inspections earlier this year, though inspections were supposed to be conducted before November last year, the initial start date for the operation of the ferries.

"As for when these vessels can go into operation, I'll defer that to the Department of Public Works," Castrodad said.

V.I. Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls did not return calls to The Daily News on Friday or earlier in the week.

According to Smalls' previous statements, the inspections have been holding up the finalization of management contracts between the V.I. government and the franchise operators, Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services.

Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services, private companies, run the current ferry operations between Red Hook on St. Thomas and Cruz Bay on St. John. The boats will be the property of the government, though they will be operated by the franchisees.

Neither Varlack Ventures general manager Delrise Varlack nor Transportation Services general manager Kendrick Augustus returned calls this week.

The ferries, 84-foot aluminum catamarans that are able to carry 204 passengers each, currently are in the possession of the Public Works Department and most recently were located at Crown Bay. They were required to pass inspections by the U.S. Coast Guard before they function in the territory, though they already passed inspections before they were transported from Louisiana.

The ferries were built by the Louisiana-based Midship Marine Inc. for $7.6 million. Their construction was funded by federal dollars from two separate U.S. Transportation Department earmarks.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email

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