A&R Marine OK to move forward with Island ferry service
A&R Marine has been given the OK to operate a ferry service from Prudence Island to Bristol.
In a 79-page order released today, the RI Division of Public Utilities and Carriers granted A&R Marine's request for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN). The company, operating as Bay Island Transport, filed their CPCN application Sept. 19.
"Presumably the Town of Portsmouth's brief in support of A&R Marine went a long way with the hearing officer," said Terry Mercer, associate administrator at the Division. "As did the brief and position in support of established by the (Division's) advocacy section."
A&R Marine has six months to meet the Division's criteria before the CPCN is issued: provide adequate dockage on Prudence Island and Bristol; get a ferry; satisfy all Coast Guard requirements for ferry service; meet town permitting processes; get liability and cargo insurance; and pass a Division inspection.
Failure to meet those requirements will void the Division's decision granting them a CPCN.
However, should A&R Marine meet those requirements, travelers to the Prudence Island would then have two ferry options to get there.
Bruce Medley, owner of Prudence Island Ferry Inc., doesn't plan on selling or stopping his business now or in the future.
"We don't care. It won't affect us," Mr. Medley said, reacting to the Division's decision. "As far as I'm concerned, it might be better for everybody.
"But I'm not surprised that they granted the certificate, considering the people at the Division.
A lease for the parking lot on Thames Street between the Town of Bristol and Prudence Island Ferry Inc. is set to expire June 14. Neither side has met yet to renew the contract, and Mr. Medley said he doesn't anticipate any hiccups in continuing the lease.
"I know the business better than anyone else," Mr. Medley said. "Just give me an idea of when (A&R Marine's) going to start. They don't have anything. When's the competition going to begin?"
Town of Portsmouth's reaction
Portsmouth Town Planner Gary Crosby said he was pleased by the decision.
“My feeling is they did it right, and I agree with their findings," Mr. Crosby said. “My overarching concern over the past year has been the certainty of ferry service to our citizens out there and this goes a long way to guaranteeing that certainty.”
Mr. Crosby said he believes A&R Marine would lease land the Town of Portsmouth owns on Prudence Island — adjacent to Mr. Medley's dock — to use for its dock.
"They talked to us early on about building a dock and leasing land from us. I don’t know what the final arrangements will be," said the town planner.
Hog Island service?
The decision also mentions the possibility of A&R also providing service to Hog Island. According to the ruling, that will be possible "as soon as a suitable dock, with adequate indemnity protections, is available."
Years ago Mr. Medley stopped running a ferry to Hog Island because he had liability concerns due to a problem with the dock, Mr. Crosby noted. Although Hog Island have asked the town for help in getting a ferry service established again, that's a job they'll have to handle themselves, according to Mr. Crosby.
“It’s all contingent upon the people of Hog Island to come up with a plan for the dock," he said, adding there are two or three different homeowners associations on Hog. Mr. Crosby said in the springtime, he expects that Hog Island residents will get together to discuss the issue again.
A representative from A&R Marine was unable to be reached for comment.
Click here to read the Division's order.
With additional reporting by Jim McGaw.