Division hears Interstate’s request to build 500-passenger fast ferry

At a borrowing cost of $8.5 million
Thu, 12/27/2018 - 2:30pm

For about three hours today at its Warwick office, the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers listened to testimony regarding Interstate Navigation’s request for incurring $8.5 million in borrowing debt to construct a new 500-passenger fast ferry. Witnesses ranging from one of Interstate Navigation’s owners, Joshua Linda, to the ferry company’s accountant, David Bebyn, and its attorney, Michael McElroy, spoke in support of the debt request, citing a demand for the service.

The vessel Interstate intends to build will have twice the passenger capacity of its high-speed vessel, the Athena, and is estimated at costing $10.5 million in total to construct. Interstate intends to finance $2 million from its own bank account, and is aiming for completion of the vessel by Memorial Day of 2020.

In written testimony submitted to the Division earlier this month, Bebyn said the new ferry will not lead Interstate to increase its ferry rates, and that the demand for service during the summer season prompted interest in building a bigger high-speed ferry. 

New Shoreham Town Council members appeared surprised by the news of Interstate’s interest in building a larger fast ferry at a Dec. 19 council meeting. Town officials and Interstate Navigation have argued that adding another ferry at Old Harbor would lead to safety and congestion issues while litigating Rhode Island Fast Ferry’s interest in operating a seasonal high-speed route from Quonset Point to Block Island. The Division granted RIFF a license to operate in Sept. of 2016, but the ferry company has been unable to secure dockage for the service, while waging a legal battle with the town and Interstate, who oppose the service. 

New Shoreham First Warden Ken Lacoste and Councilor Sven Risom attended today’s hearing, along with Town Solicitor Katherine Merolla.

The Division will be releasing a full transcript of the public hearing, and issuing a decision on Interstate’s debt request in the coming days. 

Learn more about this story in the next edition of The Block Island Times.