ROCKLAND, Maine — Effective Saturday, those who use the state-run ferry service between Rockland and Vinalhaven should expect to see occasional reductions in capacity, a state transportation official said Thursday.
The reductions in capacity are expected to occur sporadically until funding is in place to hire one to two more crew members for the Captain E. Frank Thompson, the most modern and largest vessel in the fleet, Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot said Thursday.
The number of daily trips, however, will remain the same, Talbot said.
Funding for Maine State Ferry Service positions comes from ridership fees and the service is working to get the additional crew hands hired, Talbot said.
“This is a result of federal regulations through the U.S. Coast Guard under Homeland Security. Because of this security mandate, which helps to ensure the safety of all passengers, there are occasions where insufficient crew members are available for each and every run,” he said.
Talbot said that while state transportation officials do all they can to keep the Thompson running within the given safety standards in terms of staffing, there will be times when the MV Everett Libby, a smaller-capacity vessel, will have to take the place of the Thompson to meet the needs of ferry users.
Ample notification will be in place when this action needs to be taken, he said.
It is important to remember that the number of trips will not be affected, only lowered capacity when called for.
At 154 feet, it also is the largest of the three ferries serving Vinalhaven. It can carry 22 vehicles and 250 passengers, compared to the Governor Curtis and the Captain Charles Philbrook, both of which are 130 feet long and able to carry 17 vehicles each and roughly the same number of passengers.
According to a news story recently published by the Bangor Daily News, the Philbrook will continue to operate on the same run, while the Governor Curtis will be kept as the primary backup vessel when another ferry is out of service.
The vessels will continue to make three runs a day each to and from Vinalhaven and Rockland.
The Vinalhaven route is 15 miles one way and takes one hour and 15 minutes. Last year, the ferries carried about 150,000 passengers back and forth from Vinalhaven.
For up-to-date information on ferry schedules and daily operations, call the Maine State Ferry Service at 800-491-4883 or visit http://www.maine.gov/mdot/msfs.