The Block Island Times

Breaking: Interstate files as intervenor against Quonset ferry service

Says the proposed competition could "negatively" impact island service
By Stephanie Turaj | Aug 20, 2013

Interstate Navigation, which operates a year-round Block Island ferry service, has filed a motion to intervene in the consideration of a proposed fast ferry service that would run out of Quonset Point, R.I.

In the motion to intervene, which was sent to the R.I. Division of the Public Utilities and Carriers, Interstate said that if the new fast ferry service was established it could interrupt its "lifeline" service to the island and result in revenue loss for the company.

The motion says the new ferry, if approved, could possibly reduce the number of Interstate ferry runs in the winter.

Rhode Island Fast Ferry, which runs high-speed ferries from Quonset Point to Martha’s Vineyard, has applied to the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers to operate a new high-speed service to Block Island from Quonset. This would be a summer-only service.

Interstate's motion to intervene, dated Aug. 19, said: "To the extent that passenger traffic (and accompanying revenues) are lost to this competing service, this would either force Interstate's rates to dramatically increase not only for freight, but for the remaining passenger traffic as well, and/or Interstate would be forced to significantly reduce its service level to the Island, especially during the winter months when Interstate operates at a major loss."

Interstate said that this competitor would "skim the cream" off Interstate's business — meaning the move would take away business from Interstate during the heavily travelled summer months. The motion, which was filed by Michael McElroy of the firm Schacht & McElroy out of Providence, cites the number of ferry passengers in the summer to make this point.

Interstate carries "about 200,000" round-trip ticketed passengers per year to Block Island, according to the motion, which also said the number of passengers Intertstate carried from May through September was "about 174,000 round-trip ticketed passengers."

If the Quonset ferry reduces the number of passengers on the Interstate ferries, the motion said, "[T]his will drive rates up for freight and vehicles so high that it would have a dramatic negative impact on Block Island, its residents and its businesses. It would drive up the cost of all goods on Block Island including food, gasoline, fuel oil, building materials, etc."

The motion continues: "In the worst case scenario, Interstate's rates could be forced so high that Interstate would be unable to recover its costs from declining traffic and could be forced to dramatically reduce service, lay off employees, sell vessels, etc."

The Division of Public Utilities and Carriers has scheduled a pre-hearing conference on the fast ferry application for Aug. 21 at 10 a.m. This conference will set a procedural schedule for the application process.

For a more complete story, please see Friday's edition of The Block Island Times.

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