News Release for October 30, 2018
For Immediate Release
For More Information, Please Contact:
Ted Talbot, MaineDOT Press Secretary – 215-9297
Maine State Ferry Service Announces Vinalhaven Schedule Change
Rockland – The Maine State Ferry Service (MSFS) announced today that it will implement a new winter schedule on the ferry route serving the island of Vinalhaven. The changes will go into effect on Sunday, November 4, 2018, to coincide with the end of daylight-savings time.
The modifications will mean that the Vinalhaven schedule will revert to pre-2010 winter schedule for 17-weeks in the winter. The number of trips per day will not change, but vessel departure times will be adjusted to move the last boat time to 3:15 p.m. (from 4:30 p.m.) to keep the ferry passage in daylight conditions. These changes come after a Vinalhaven Route Safety Assessment was conducted at the request of MaineDOT Commissioner, David Bernhardt, in September. The Vinalhaven route is the only ferry schedule change as a result of the assessment.
“In response to safety concerns raised by the MSFS captains who regularly serve on the Vinalhaven route, Commissioner Bernhardt asked the MSFS to conduct an emergency route assessment with participants from the ferry service, United State Coast Guard (USCG) and the Town of Vinalhaven,” said MSFS Manager Mark Higgins. “After conducting the assessment, we found that the risk of continuing a 4:30 p.m. trip to Vinalhaven in dark hours, during winter months, was unacceptable without further study and implementation of mitigation measures.”
The MSFS ferry crossing from Rockland to Carver’s Harbor in Vinalhaven is the service’s longest daily route and undoubtedly the most navigationally challenging. Even in good weather and visibility conditions, the last 30 minutes during the approach around the southwest side of the island to access the harbor are demanding due to the narrow and shallow channels, particularly in Lawry’s Narrows and The Reach. Fishing fleet congestion and visibility issues caused by modern LED illumination on wharfs and approaching vessels compound the safety concerns in this area.
Vinalhaven assessment team members did not ultimately reach the same conclusion, but the USCG participants reinforced the MSFS findings and noted that the USCG would always support a decision by a company to increase the safety of operations. USCG participants also highlighted several other regulations and policies that the MSFS should review and enforce to ensure the safety of passengers and crews across the entire MSFS.
“While we understand that the schedule change will present inconveniences to some of our customers, safety must take priority when making operational decisions,” said Commissioner David Bernhardt. “It is prudent that the MSFS and MaineDOT take this opportunity to fully assess all hazards and potential mitigation of the Vinalhaven route – and across the entire service - to protect the lives of our passengers and crews. Public safety is the paramount consideration in this decision.”
The MSFS serves the communities of Swan’s Island, Islesboro, North Haven, Vinalhaven and Matinicus Isle. Annually, the MSFS serves roughly 700,000 passengers and 190,000 vehicles. In addition to operating expenses being paid one-half by residents of Maine through the Highway Fund, capital costs for the ferry service – including the construction of ferry boats, maintenance and upgrade to facilities and improvements to supporting infrastructure – are fully funded through MaineDOT.
For a copy of the new Vinalhaven Schedule effective November, 4, 2018, as well as the Vinalhaven Route Safety Assessment findings and supporting documents, please visit www.mainedot.gov.