Gov. Roy Cooper has signed a bill authorizing the state Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division to lease a passenger ferry for operation between Ocracoke and Hatteras.
The $700,000 funding provision was included in Senate Bill 241, which also amends motor vehicle laws regulating modified utility vehicles on certain roads and highways. Cooper signed the bill Monday.
The lease term is through Aug. 15 unless the Ferry Division determines that the state-owned passenger ferry under construction since 2017 is ready for operation.
The builder, Waterline Systems, has the boat in the water for testing at its shipyard near Swansboro.
“It’s part of the process the builder goes through before it gets turned over to the Ferry Division, so I can’t put a date on when that will be completed,” said Ferry Division spokesman Tim Haas.
The vessel is to be named the Ocracoke Express.
The leased ferry is coming from New Jersey. Once here, the Ferry Division must perform verifications and inspections before it can begin service.
“The Ferry Division has been making preparations all spring for passenger ferry service, so once the contract is signed and the testing completed, it should not take long before service would begin,” Haas said Friday.
The division must opt out of the lease within 30 days of when it determines the state-owned ferry can be placed in operation, if the cost of opting out is less than the cost of completing the lease term, with any remaining funds deposited in the systemwide reserve account.
NCDOT had awarded the $4.15 million contract to build the 98-passenger catamaran-style ferry in June 2017 to Armstrong Marine Inc. of Port Angeles, Washington. Construction of the vessel, the state’s first passenger ferry, was supposed to be completed in early 2018 but was delayed because of disagreements between the builder, Armstrong’s US Workboats, and NCDOT regarding issues with welds. Waterline Systems took over construction at the same facility near Swansboro.