The Block Island Times

Featured Letter from Interstate Navigation

Sep 23, 2013

To the Editor:

Our family is proud of the fact that we have been providing reliable ferry service for Block Island for more than 80 years. I am writing today in response to the proposal to establish a new seasonal ferry service from Quonset Point.

We fully accept that competition is good for the consumer. I would qualify my position by adding that it be fair competition. From my perspective, when one company is required to provide service on a year-round basis and another is allowed to operate seasonally, that is not fair competition. Although our high speed service is seasonal, the profits from that service offset the operation of our year-round service when ridership is low. Simply put, if another company is allowed to skim off profits in the summer season, the consumer will suffer. There is not a business on Block Island that does not understand the enormous challenge of the seasonal cash flow and the need to bank money to get through the long winter. If our summer income is reduced, then we will have to examine our entire business model, evaluating the frequency of year-round service. This is not a threat. It is a fact.

We respect the Public Utilities Commission process and the right of those who wish to apply for a license even when it constitutes competition. We feel that the hearing process the Division (of Public Utilities and Carriers) sets forth is the proper forum for everyone, including Interstate Navigation, to express their position in the best interest of our passengers, year-round residents, and our company. Like all good businesses, we continue to review choices we made and consider feedback from our customers. The feedback we receive is appreciated and does not fall on deaf ears.

My grandfather, John H. Wronowski, instilled Interstate Navigation Company with a simple business philosophy to provide a safe, clean, comfortable and timely year-round ferry service. He believed that in order to be successful, family would have to be intimately involved in every aspect of the business — even repairing, rebuilding and painting the vessels. He felt he could control not only the quality of the work but also the cost of maintenance. My grandfather believed, as an owner, he should be hands-on and should work as hard as his employees. That philosophy worked then and it holds true now, three generations later. In our company, “corporate officers” can be found welding or wielding a paintbrush. Our family members sell tickets, staff the snack bar and clean the ferries.

We own homes on Block Island and we quietly support local charities, like the transportation needs for Block Island School field trips and sporting events, the Lion’s Club, 4th of July bands, Blues on the Beach and the Early Learning Center, to name a few. We employ island residents, and patronize island businesses. This is why it can be difficult for us to read stories in the press implying that we are some major corporate entity, divorced from the community and set on making a profit to the detriment of our island.

Interstate Navigation is a family-owned private business, just like most businesses on Block Island. We rely solely on our passenger, vehicle and freight sales to cover the cost of operation. Like most companies, we face high operation expenses with fuel, ferry and property maintenance, as well as payroll. Since we operate in Rhode Island waters we are licensed and regulated by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The company “profit” is fixed and regulated.

Our business commitment to the community extends beyond dropping people off at a dock. We saw the need for a viable infrastructure to support tourism, and established free parking, designated 25 taxi spaces, and provided property for a visitors’ building with public restrooms. Our two ramps and docks were built and are maintained without financial aid from the Town of New Shoreham. In times of need, the Coast Guard and the Town have utilized our facilities.

We are well-established in Rhode Island. Currently, our main office is in the process of moving to a new building in Narragansett, R.I. We employ more than 100 seasonal workers and over 50 year-round employees.

The majority of our employees are Rhode Island residents with many living on Block Island and in Narragansett.

We are, have been, and will continue to be part of the Block Island community.

Joshua P. Linda

Vice President, Interstate Navigation Company

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