DPUC opens investigation of Interstate Navigation

Fri, 03/08/2019 - 1:45pm

The Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers has opened an investigation into Interstate Navigation for its “need and appropriateness” of plans to replace its 250-seat high-speed vessel the Athena with a larger, 500-passenger fast ferry. The proposal was put before the Division late last year, and was met with criticism by the Division and Hearing Officer John Spirito.

An email issued today at 1: 28 p.m. by Luly Massaro, Clerk for the Division, stated that: “In accordance with Division of Public Utilities and Carrier’s (Division) Order No.  23364, the Division hereby gives notice that it has opened Docket No. D-19-05 to investigate the need and appropriateness of Interstate Navigation Company’s plans to replace the Athena with a large high-speed ferry.” 

The Division’s order, written by Spirito, notes that Interstate has 30 days to file an appeal in Superior Court. “The filing of a complaint (appeal) with the Superior Court does not itself stay enforcement of the Division’s final decision.” Interstate “may however, seek a stay from the Division and/or from the Court. The judicial review shall be conducted by the Superior Court without a jury and shall be confined to the record. The Court, upon request, shall hear oral argument and receive written briefs.”

The docket opened today by the Division was due to Interstate’s Dec. 27 testimony when it issued a request to the Division to incur $8.5 million in financing debt for constructing the larger vessel. On Jan. 4, the Division denied the request, while also stating in its ruling that it would open an investigation as to the timing for Interstate’s request to build a new fast ferry and whether it was an attempt to “thwart Rhode Island Fast Ferry, Inc.’s entry into the Rhode Island intrastate high-speed ferry market.”

Interstate and the Town of New Shoreham have been waging an ongoing legal battle opposing RIFF’s plans for operating a seasonal high-speed ferry from Quonset Point to Block Island for the past several years.

This is a developing story. Learn more in The Block Island Times.