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South Ferry boat under construction — fare hike contemplated

South Ferry Chief Financial Officer Tish Clark signs a mortgage agreement with Peoples United Bank officials, as Nicholas Morehead, second from right, looks on.

South Ferry announced it has awarded the contract for a $3.45 million, 101-foot ferryboat to Blount Boat Works of Warren, Rhode Island. The company has previously built two other boats — Sunrise and Southside — for the company.

The vessel should be ready by the end of 2019 and will be named the Southern Cross, according to South Ferry President Cliff Clark.

The company’s ferry Lt. Joe Theinert was named the Southern Cross before being changed to honor Islander Joey Theinert, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010.

The new boat will incorporate every affordable environmental and operational improvement reflective of the 11 years of advancement in technology since the Southside was commissioned, Mr. Clark said.

Financing is being handled by Peoples United Bank, Mr. Clark said, noting that the company had hoped to delay construction for another few years.

But in August 2017, engine failure laid up one of the company’s big boats for a week. “We simply could not keep up with the traffic using the small Captain Bill Clark in its place,” Mr. Clark said. “We need four big boats to provide the year-round service expected of us.”

With the announcement, came the expected notice that company officials are “reluctantly” drafting a specific proposal for an anticipated rate hike that could be in place this summer, Mr. Clark said. The fare hike would be the company’s first since 2012, he added. The average increase for all fares then was 12.2 percent.

It will fall to the Suffolk County Legislature to review the rate hike proposal.

Among the factors that influenced the Legislature to approve a fare hike in 2012 was that the proposed rates favored Island residents who receive discounted tickets, which are augmented by rates paid by commercial traffic and nonresident fees.

North Ferry is planning to add a new boat to its fleet, but officials there aren’t yet ready to talk about details, according to Shelter Island Heights Property Owners Corporation General Manager Stella Lagudis.