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East End morning commuter ferry to be axed

The East End morning commuter ferry is to be axed as the Department of Marine and Ports amends the Island's ferry schedule after its budget was slashed by more than $2 million, Transport Minister Terry Lister said.

Speaking in the House of Assembly today he said the operating budget had been cut from $9.9 million in 2010-2011 to $7.6 million this financial year.

As a result it has had to “amend the ferry schedule to provide a more cost effective service over the various routes,” he explained.

“The changes to the schedule will effectively reduce services on some routes however we will be providing sufficient lift and capacity to meet the demands of the busy summer season.”

He said the numbers using the West End commuter service routes remained high and as a result they would have similar levels of service in 2011.

The East End morning commuter service, however, would not be reinstated; though there will be one commuter trip in the evening, he said.

“On the midday Dockyard to St George's route, the department will deploy one large 350 passenger ferry on this route with additional lift supplemented with the 750 passenger tender Bermudian.

“These deployment changes will take effect April 11. The costs of operating this improved service are estimated at $7,586,000, with anticipated revenue of $1,256,000.”

The department has also reserved funds to complete Bermuda's Shipping Channel Study in 2011, which looks at the need to modify the Island's shipping channels to accommodate large cruise ships.

More importantly it will examine options to allow large vessels to travel into the Two Rock passage in Hamilton and Town Cut Channel in St George's, according to Mr Lister.

“Town Cut presents the major challenge, therefore it will be the primary focus of this study. Possible modifications include the amount of dredging, widening and straightening, and sea bed modeling for symmetry.

“Also the impact of the modifications on wave conditions within St George's Harbour and the cost of improvements will be ascertained. The study will be completed in May 2011.”

While outlining a wave of costs and budget cuts, the Transport Minister said the department would be spending $1.5 million on a replacement tug.

The tug, which will assist a larger class of cruise vessels coming to the Island, is estimated to bring in $1,113,000 in revenue.

Mr Lister said Bermuda Harbour Radio was undergoing a phased system upgrade to “ensure the rapid detection of problems offshore”.

“These equipment enhancements will result in a more efficient response to local and international marine and aviation emergencies.

“Maritime Operations Centre controllers on duty are more easily able to maintain maritime domain awareness through the faster interpretation of the various information feeds that they are receiving.”

Mr Lister said staff would undergo further training with the Police Marine Section.

They are also set to receive a new vessel, currently under construction, in July, which will replace the 25-year-old St David, he said.

“This boat will also provide first response conditions as well as providing inshore marine rescue cover at the L.F Wade International Airport.”

He said an international agreement made Bermuda responsible for marine search and rescue response to a range of 30 miles from the shore.

According to Mr Lister the new vessel would greatly improve the “efficiency of the service and reduce response time for critical search and rescue missions”.

Marine public safety and security will receive an estimated $2.2 million outlined in the Budget.

The East End morning commuter ferry service is to be axed.

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Published March 11, 2011 at 12:00 am (Updated March 11, 2011 at 5:02 pm)

East End morning commuter ferry to be axed

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