State To Lease Ocracoke Passenger Ferry Again This Year

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has signed legislation that will continue the operation of a passenger-only ferry that takes people from Hatters Island to Ocracoke Island.

The Raleigh News & Observer reported Friday that the move will give Outer Banks visitors the option of taking a passenger-only ferry to Ocracoke for the third summer in a row. Other ferries carry people and their vehicles.

The N.C. Department of Transportation will continue to lease a boat because the one it ordered remains unfinished. The legislation that Cooper signed this week provides $700,000 to lease and operate the boat from June 21 to Aug. 15, or until the state-owned ferry is ready.

The Ocracoke Express is being built in Hubert, which is near Swansboro. NCDOT spokesman Jamie Kritzer said the boat is now in the water for testing.

“That’s part of the process the builder goes through before turning it over to the Ferry Division,” Kritzer said. “Until that happens we won’t know when it will be ready for service.”

The state expected the ferry to be ready in 2018. NCDOT and US Workboats, the company that won the contract to build the vessel, have blamed each other for construction delays. Kritzer said another company, Waterline Systems, has taken over construction of the ferry.