NC-owned Ocracoke Express ferry begins inaugural season


The Ocracoke Express will start shuttling passengers between Hatteras and Ocracoke islands on Could 17. The ferry is owned and operated by the N.C. Division of Transportation.


The Ocracoke Express will start its fourth season ferrying passengers between Hatteras and Ocracoke islands on Could 17, however it is going to be the inaugural run for the state-owned boat.

The N.C. Division of Transportation had expected to take delivery on the catarmaran-style passenger boat in April 2018, in time for the summer time season. After adjustments within the contract, the 2018 season was scrubbed and a brand new due date set for Aug. 23, 2018.

When the boat wasn’t prepared then, NCDOT started assessing “liquidated damage” penalties of $1,000 a day. Within the meantime, it leased another passenger ferry boat for the 2019, 2020 and 2021 summer seasons.

Now the state’s boat is prepared for service, greater than 3.5 years late, and people liquidated damages have topped $1.3 million.

It’s not clear how a lot of that cash the state will obtain. As of April 7, NCDOT had paid $3.6 million of the $4.4 million contract to construct the boat, mentioned Catherine Peele, planning and growth supervisor for the Ferry Division.

Whether or not NCDOT will get any a refund and who would pay it’s now within the arms of NCDOT’s attorneys, Peele mentioned.

“That is something that the legal team is working out currently,” she mentioned.

One complication is that the corporate that completed constructing the boat shouldn’t be the one which began it. US Workboats missed the preliminary deadline and later declared chapter, leading to one other firm, Waterline Systems, approaching to finish development.

NCDOT and US Workboats blamed each other for the delays, and the matter ended up in court docket in 2019. US Workboats accused NCDOT of attempting to use the next normal of welding than was specified within the contract. An lawyer for the state countered that the corporate needed to keep away from testing required to find out the welds had been secure after a few of the exams had uncovered “significant problems.”

A Wake County decide dismissed the corporate’s breach of contract declare, saying it didn’t observe a grievance course of spelled out in its contract with NCDOT.

Peele mentioned Waterline Methods is not going to be accountable for the penalties for lacking the 2018 deadline.

A substitute for the Hatteras-Ocracoke automotive ferry

The state launched the passenger ferry after shoaling in Hatteras Inlet pressured the automotive ferries to take an extended route between the 2 islands. With extra time on the water, NCDOT needed to minimize the variety of ferry journeys, lowering the variety of guests to Ocracoke.

The Ocracoke Express crossing takes 70 minutes and delivers passengers to Silver Lake harbor in Ocracoke Village. A one-way journey prices $5, plus $1 per bicycle. Kids 3 and below who can share a seat with an grownup experience free.

The Hatteras-Ocracoke automotive ferry is free, although there could be a appreciable wait to get on in the summertime.

The brand new ferry can carry as much as 129 passengers at a time. It’s going to go away Hatteras at 9:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., with return journeys from Ocracoke Village at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and seven:30 p.m.

The Coast Guard accredited the boat for testing on March 25, then licensed on April 22 that it’s secure to hold passengers, Peele mentioned. That’s when NCDOT stopped calculating the every day $1,000 penalty for being late.

“The boat’s ours,” Peele mentioned. “We’re ready to rock and roll on May 17.”

NCDOT will christen the boat in a ceremony on the Hatteras ferry terminal on Could 16. The occasion will even mark the seventy fifth anniversary of the state ferry system, the second largest run by a state within the nation after Washington.

For extra details about the Ocracoke Express or to make a reservation as much as 90 days prematurely, go to or name 1-800-293-3779.

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The Information & Observer. Planes, trains and vehicles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and simply plain strolling. Additionally, hospitals through the coronavirus outbreak. He’s been a reporter or editor for 34 years, together with the final 22 at The N&O. 919-829-4739,

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