MANNS HARBOR, N.C.
The passenger ferry set to shuttle hundreds a day between Ocracoke and Hatteras Island will not be ready as expected.
North Carolina Department of Transportation acknowledged the 98-passenger, $4.15 million ferry was not delivered in February and will not be operating by May 14 as promised.
Contractor U.S. Workboats in Hubert, North Carolina, has had "construction challenges," said NCDOT and ferry division spokesman Tim Hass.
"In an effort to fully understand the issues that are keeping the builder from completing the vessel, the ferry division has been on-site multiple times in the past two weeks and has embedded a contractor on-site to monitor and provide quality control and assurance," Hass said in a statement.
Officials expect a "full mitigation" plan from the boat building company that must be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, he said.
The ferry division would not comment on when the ferry would be ready or if there would be extra costs. Calls to the U.S. Coast Guard and to U.S. Workboats were not immediately returned.
The catamaran-style ferry was set to make three round trips per day with fares ranging from $5 to $15 depending on the season and time of day. It would have relieved some of the pressure of long lines on the conventional, vehicle-carrying ferries. The ferry was expected to add tourist traffic to the Ocracoke Village, which depends on visitor spending.
State and federal money came to $9 million total to purchase the ferry, trams and improve docks among other things as part of getting people around the village full of shops.
"It's a Christmas or so off, but it's still a $9 million gift," said Bill Rich, special projects coordinator for Hyde County which includes Ocracoke.
Two years ago, the ferry division announced the boat would be built by Armstrong Marine of the state of Washington at a North Carolina boat yard. The North Carolina site later became U.S. Workboats in Hubert.
The company had originally promised the boat delivered by April 2018, then September 2018, then February 2019.