I’m writing to add to my letter of last week, “Proposed ferry terminal draws fire.”
On April 20, I travelled to St. Thomas on a personal shopping trip. I left on the 6:45 a.m. Native Son ferry to Red Hook. Unfortunately, Oriole, the scheduled ferry, reportedly had engine trouble in Road Town and was some 40 minutes late in departing West End. During that period, the Bomba Charger, owned by Tortola Fast Ferry (formerly known as Smith’s Ferry), arrived at West End on a scheduled run to Charlotte Amalie. Presumably it was carrying passengers that boarded in Road Town. No passengers boarded at West End. No passengers switched from the Native Son service.
Twenty-six Oriole passengers cleared United States Immigration and Customs in Cruz Bay, St. John. Fifteen of these passengers had boarded Oriole in West End.
My shopping trip in St. Thomas was such that I was forced to catch the 4:30 p.m. Native Son boat to West End and Road Town. While waiting for this boat to board, the Road Town Fast Ferry’s Provincetown II loaded passengers destined directly for Road Town. Fifty-six passengers boarded.
The Native Son ferry (the Oriole again) loaded 26 passengers, 15 of whom were destined for West End.
Given that I saw four ferries during my trip, the following figures become apparent:
• The Oriole (Road Town to Red Hook via West End) carried 15 passengers from Road Town and 15 from West End.
• The Bomba Charger (Road Town to Charlotte Amalie via West End) carried about 10 passengers from Road Town, and none that I saw from West End.
• The Provincetown II (Charlotte Amalie to Road Town, direct) carried 56 passengers.
• The Oriole (Charlotte Amalie to Road Town via West End) carried 15 passengers to West End and 11 to Road Town.
• The total number of passengers using Road Town, then, was 88, while the total number using West End was 30. This means 25.4 percent of the total passengers used West End.
Admittedly, this is a “snapshot” of the West End ferry terminal on what is very possibly a low travel day, but the low percentage of passengers using West End reflects what appears to be a consistent level of use in what is probably still a “shoulder” tourist period. It should be noted that most of the 56 passengers on the Road Town Fast Ferry were apparently tourists. Further, it should be noted that Road Town Fast Ferry advertises direct transit to Road Town very heavily in Charlotte Amalie.
These data tend to make the BVI Ports Authority’s estimate that 30,000 passengers use the West End terminal per month look grossly exaggerated.