HMS Ferries looks to add 3 vessels to Maritime Transportation Authority fleet
HMS Ferries, the company selected in November 2020 to operate the Maritime Transportation Authority’s ferry service through a public-private partnership, said it is identifying three additional cargo vessels to add to the Ceiba-Vieques-Culebra routes, which in recent weeks has been in crisis mode.
The company, which has yet to formally take over the service — which is slated to happen in July — is “seeking immediate options to solve the problem of boats to Vieques and Culebra,” HMS Ferries Puerto Rico President Matt Miller said.
“HMS is confident that the additional vessels will help alleviate the current situation with the condition of the MTA fleet, with the first vessel to arrive within five to six weeks from receiving MTA approval,” he said.
“It is important to understand that the year-long transition process has just begun and that there is much work to accomplish to correct nearly 50-years of neglect,” he said.
“MTA and HMS remain committed to correcting the long standing systemic issues that has resulted in the current state of the MTA fleet. This begins with assessing and repairing the current fleet and returning them to service to the high standard we maintain throughout the world,” he said.
“Clearly the additional vessels will allow for the assessment and repair of the MTA fleet to be conducted without further impact to the residents of Vieques and Culebra,” said Miller.
Decades-old transportation problems between Puerto Rico and the island municipalities of Vieques and Culebra peaked most recently last week, when mechanical and logistics issues held back cargo deliveries, leaving the island without gasoline, food and other provisions.
In response to the crisis, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi called up the Puerto Rico National Guard to help stabilize the delivery issues, as News is my Business reported.
Miller, a former officer of the US Coast Guard said that HMS Ferries took these immediate steps to identify and ready additional vessels for deployment because, “we must work together for the well-being of the residents of the island municipalities,” he said.
As established in the public-private partnership agreement, HMS Ferries began the transition process in February, having established a team of engineers, which have developed a “detailed plan to assess and then repair the vessels, which will ensure the ferry system is brought to the proper standard.”
“In February, we started in the systematic and complex transition of the entire ferry system. During the transition phase, which is expected to take a year, we will work on assessing and repairing both the metro and island service simultaneously,” he said, referring to the other component of the agreement which calls for HMS to take over the Cataño/San Juan ferry service.
“Given the condition of the vessels, it is expected the metro service will be brought to the high standard more quickly than the island service,” he said. “However, by the end of our first year, we hope to have the administration and operation of the entire maritime transport system, including Vieques,” he said.
Miller also added that HMS plans to implement its state-of-the-art web site and ticketing system, that includes a mobile app and online ticketing much sooner than expected.
“Given the hard work of our transition team, we expect to have the entire ticketing system, for both the island and metro service up and operating by the middle of June. Once in place, the residents of Vieques and Culebra, and all the citizens and visitors to Puerto Rico will have use of the most sophisticated and state of the art ticketing system in the world. “
Miller said “the company is prepared to face the challenges posed by maritime transport between the municipality islands and the big island, applying in this operation the experience and quality standards of the company in the different operations in the United States.”