Bay Ferries could be eyeing U.S. navy-owned vessel for route

Carla Allen
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The Alakai, a high-speed ferry purchased by the US Navy in 2012, is now known as the USNS Puerto Rico. Could this be a ship Bay Ferries is eyeing for the Yarmouth-Portland run?

YARMOUTH – Could a former commercial ferry owned by the United States navy become the next Yarmouth to Portland boat?

A Feb. 4 report by the Associated Press says U.S. Sen. Angus King, and Rep. Chellie Pingree– at the request of the Portland mayor ­– held a conference call in December with the Navy about the possible acquisition of a vessel.

Willy Ritch, spokesman for the congresswoman, told the Tri-County Vanguard Feb. 5 that, while he cannot comment on a specific vessel, it would make sense for a surplus vessel belonging to the navy to be leased to an operator so the service could run in 2016.

“It would be a win for everybody,” he said.

“I think the navy has transports… they come to acquire vessels that in many cases have been previously used as commercial ferries.”

Ritch added the ferry service is very important to Pingree, who represents 1st District of Maine, for the economy of Portland and the state.

“We’ve got a great working waterfront in Portland and passenger ferry service to Nova Scotia that has existed in the past. It should still be part of our tradition and part of our local economy,” said Ritch.

Included in the U.S. navy’s inventory is the USNS Puerto Rico, a high-speed transport vessel, purchased in May 2012 for $25-million. The 106-metre ship was built in September 2008. The Local Xpress reports the Puerto Rico is the ship being considered by Bay Ferries.

The ship was previously owned by Hawaii Superferry, a company that went belly up in 2009. In 2010, she and her sister ship Huakai helped in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.

Specifications on Wikimedia describe the water-jet powered vessel, as having an operating speed of 35 knots (65 km/h).

The ship has a capacity of 866 passengers and up to 282 subcompact cars. Its vehicle decks can be reconfigured in five minutes to carry up to 20 large trucks and 90 cars. In August 2012, USNS Puerto Rico was towed from Norfolk to Philadelphia, presumably for modification.

In a media release Feb. 4, Bay Ferries’ chief executive operator Mark MacDonald said, because the company is competing for ferry assets worldwide, Bay Ferries is limited in what it can say on the status of its search for a ship. All the company has said is it is working hard to secure a ship.

“We recognize the concerns of many people, particularly our longstanding partners in the travel and tourism industries, that ferry service out of Yarmouth continues in 2016 and beyond and are doing everything we can to reach that goal,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald has not replied to the Tri-County Vanguard request for comment.






Organizations: Bay Ferries, Tri-County Vanguard, Associated Press Local Xpress

Geographic location: U.S., Portland, Puerto Rico Maine Nova Scotia Haiti Norfolk Philadelphia Yarmouth

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Recent comments

  • Mr. Digby
    February 09, 2016 - 12:05

    Whoa, mostly negative comments. No surprise, eh?

  • BDD
    February 08, 2016 - 13:56

    So Bay Ferries is going to put a ship that has been tied up to the dock in Philadelphia since 2012 in service in 4 months? How long did it take to put the new Digby boat in service? Don't count on any boat this year.

  • Mark Guay
    February 07, 2016 - 18:11

    "Looking for a boat for the Yarmouth to Portland ferry route" Hey Steven, master of the obvious. Did you read the comment above... No kidding they're looking for a boat

  • SBC
    February 07, 2016 - 18:09

    "Looking for a boat for the Yarmouth to Portland ferry route" Hey Steven, master of the obvious. Did you read the comment above?

  • Harold Muise
    February 07, 2016 - 12:05

    how silly, the Prov should go to Europe and find another boat like the old Prince of Fundy that [ back then ] was a perfect boat for the crossing. just why no one can think of that as a "fix" i worked on it and it was A good choice.another Cat like ship / boat no one liked. or! get someone other than government [people] finding a boat for the crossing. back then it :seemed" so simple, why today its so hard to do, is beyond my thinking. (( good luck)))

  • Edwin Allen
    February 06, 2016 - 10:29

    Thank you Carla for lending your local perspective on Bay Ferries ideas through this article. It is true that there has been much negative press about the former ferry Cat being of a catamaran design. Yet, it is difficult to understand the motivation for the presence of such a ground-swell of negativism surounding reports that Bay Ferries has infact been doing research in co-operation with the US Senator and Portland Mayor to acquire a ferry for the 2016 tourism season. While this hull design may not be a norm in this area and the former ferry had negative comments about smoothness of crossing, I heard or read little about and real concerns over safety, but rather more about impressive crossing speed and comfort. I read an article this morning that depicted the search as one being done to include an old US Navy vessel. The CBC report gave no indication of the age of the vessel, its past uses or anything that might match the information coming from elsewhere about the former Hawaiian ferry and its diversity or very importantly, its amount of use and age. I am saddened by our over centralized mindset that states, "unless it comes out of greater Halifax region, it is not worth talking about or considering, as having value to the province as a whole" which is so rooted in urban thinking and bias. The economic character and value of the South Shore, the Valley and its supporting businesses and peoples, deserve an opportunity to live, invest and maintain a healthy service and tourism based industry just as much as other centers of urban centralized based tourism. Thank you for your "other" perspective and the injection of some hope for 2016 on a happier note.

  • john lynn kirk
    February 06, 2016 - 05:50

    NOT another Cat. Please.

  • James Lancaster
    February 05, 2016 - 22:20

    We don't need any more high speed ferries in Yarmouth. High speed ferried have resulted in tragedy on both sides of the border. Bay Ferries take your high speed ambitions away from here you're not wanted.

  • Mark Guay
    February 05, 2016 - 14:02

    This would be a disaster! Bay Ferries & the province should learn from their CAT experience. Other than initial curiosity, this has zero sustainable tourism appeal & is a failed model to pursue for transit on the Bay of Fundy.

    • Steven Evens
      February 06, 2016 - 07:04

      This has nothing to do with transit on the Bay of Fundy, Bay Ferries is looking for a boat for the Yarmouth to Portland ferry route.