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Govt to lease Millennium ferry for a second year

Government intends to renew the lease of the ferry Millennium next year to shuttle cruise ship passengers back and forth from Dockyard to St George's.

That was one of the disclosures made in the House by Tourism and Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell in an update on the 2013 Transportation Plan.

In a Ministerial Statement, he said: “The introduction of the 4,000+ passenger capacity Norwegian Breakaway required us to ‘up our game' in ensuring that sufficient transportation services are provided.”

The plan is designed to enhance Bermuda's public and private transportation services with “better coordination and organisation, specifically at the Ground Transportation Area at Dockyard and St George's”.

Admittedly, he said, there's always room for improvements.

Updating the House on the Millennium, which was formerly a ferry in Rhode Island, US, Mr Crockwell said: “Since her commencement into service in May through the first week of September, some 94,758 passengers had been carried between Dockyard and St George's.

“A total of 554 one way trips have so far been completed Monday through Friday, with no missed trips to date other than those cancelled due to Tropical Storm Gabrielle on September 10 and 11.

“In total, approximately 1,200 passengers per day are being carried between Dockyard and St George's.”

The lease included “two owner supplied US crew and four locally sourced Bermudian crew, which has been a key component in the success of this service”.

The Millennium is due to return to the US next month and return again next year for the 2014 cruise ship season.

“This action will ensure that we have sufficient capacity to potentially expand ferry services and retain the flexible ferry schedule we implemented this year.”

Responding to questions by Shadow Transport Minister Lawrence Scott, he said it was “prudent” to extend the lease for a second year as recommended in the original plan.

Mr Scott wanted to know if money could be saved in the long term by investing in another ferry as opposed to a “wet lease” which is more expensive.

The Minister said he was looking into it but noted that a new ferry would cost $6 million.

Once the season is over he said the Millennium's budget will be provided. Right now he said the number one priority “is to ensure that tourists will not be stranded at Dockyard”.

On Bermuda's bus and ferry service he noted that it's no secret it has its challenges.

New buses are due to arrive in November to help upgrade the “ageing fleet”.

Mechanical and preventive maintenance issues resulted in a “high number of out of service buses”.

Faced with high demands for service during the 2013 tourist season, the focus was shifted to preventive maintenance to curb the problem to improve the “reliability of service”.

A “small contingent of retired employees” in the maintenance section were hired to support full-time employees in the section.

“The impact of this decision has been significant and we have received a low level of complaints from our customers, and significantly improved the reliability of the bus service,” said the Minister.

“With the arrival of our new buses, scheduled for November, we should be able to continue to improve the reliability of service moving forward.”

Maintenance practices were also improved for the “ageing fleet” of ferries.

With the last high-speed ferry delivered in 2006, he said reduced budget allocations contributed to mechanical problems resulted in out of service ferries as well.

Countless cruise ship passengers left stranded in Dockyard and other areas last year presented challenges that made international news headlines.

And on Thursday the Department of Public Transportation advised there would be some delays because some buses were experiencing mechanical issues due to inclement weather.

The department extended apologies in advance for any inconvenience caused to the travelling public.

The Central Bus Terminal ticket office in Hamilton is also closed until further notice “due to unpleasant fumes”.

Bus passes, tickets and tokens can be obtained from the General Post Office or the ferry terminal.

On the new transportation layout for taxis and minibuses he said: “We still have some more work ahead of us to ensure that the private sector continues to grow into an important part of our annual Transportation Plans.”

Communications for visitors were also improved in time for the 2013 season.

Clearly marked zones for each category of transportation were laid out at Dockyard and maps were distributed on board cruise ships servicing the Island, and videos on local transportation options are run in each cabin.

“This has greatly improved the level of information provided for our visitors prior to arriving in Bermuda,” Mr Crockwell said.

“Special emphasis in the video was placed on taxi and minibus services, with less emphasis on the public bus service.”

Extending his appreciation to personnel for the “extensive amount of teamwork and dedication in making the summer season a success”.

He also acknowledged the recent achievement of Jorde Smith, who completed his apprenticeship training in Automotive Technology, with honours of distinction, at City College Brighton and Hove in the UK.

Said Mr Crockwell: “Having well-trained and dedicated employees in the mechanic section is important in ensuring that our buses remain well maintained in the future.”

Transport: The Rhode Island fast ferry Millennium, is to be leased by Government for a second year.

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Published September 14, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated September 14, 2013 at 12:15 am)

Govt to lease Millennium ferry for a second year

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