Letters to Sean Connaughton, U.S. Maritime Administrator, and Admiral Thad Allen, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Re: Keep Ferry Vessels Operating Along Current Route
PALLONE ASKS MARITIME ADMINISTRATION, COAST GUARD TO KEEP FERRY VESSELS OPERATING ALONG CURRENT ROUTE
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) sent separate letters today to U.S. Maritime Administrator Sean Connaughton and U.S. Coast Guard Commandant, Admiral Thad Allen, asking them to encourage Sea Containers Ltd. to sell their ferry vessels in Highlands and Atlantic Highlands to a U.S. buyer who will continue the service. (A COPY OF BOTH LETTERS FOLLOW)
Sea Containers Ltd. operates the SeaStreak ferry service, which shuttles commuters from the New Jersey boroughs of Highlands and Atlantic Highlands, in Pallone's district, to downtown Manhattan. Recently, it has been reported that Sea Containers is looking to sell the four boats used for this service to the government of Trinidad and Tobago. Pallone feels that the boats should be sold to a U.S. buyer that will continue the current ferry service.
The New Jersey lawmaker's action today follows a letter on October 10th to David Stafford, General Manager of SeaStreak America, Inc., asking for his assurance that ferry service in the boroughs of Highlands and Atlantic Highlands would continue without interruption if the ferries are sold. He also asked that contingency plans be put into place to ensure continued service, and that the public be informed of any potential changes.
November 16, 2007
U.S. Maritime Administrator
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Mr. Connaughton,
I am writing today regarding Sea Containers Ltd. and the SeaStreak ferry service, which shuttles commuters from the boroughs of Highlands and Atlantic Highlands in my district to downtown Manhattan. Recently, it has been reported that Sea Containers is looking to sell the four boats used for this service to the foreign government of Trinidad and Tobago. This is troubling because this popular ferry service provides a vital transportation route for thousands of commuters in New Jersey and New York.
The ferries are American flag vessels, but Sea Containers Ltd., a British corporation, set up an American company in order to operate the vessels under the Jones Act in coastal waters. While Sea Containers received no government subsidy to build the ferries, it did receive government protections and both direct and indirect government assistance to set up these routes. Additionally, these ferries played a key evacuation role on 9/11, and therefore Sea Containers was eligible for and received federal funds through post-9/11 New York and New Jersey ferry funding to enhance its facilities and operations.
Because of the importance of the SeaStreak ferry routes, and the assistance the federal government provided in establishing and supporting these routes, I respectfully request that the Maritime Administration, in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard, convene a meeting with Sea Containers Ltd. to encourage the company to sell these vessels to a U.S. buyer who will continue the service.
I would like the Maritime Administration to intervene and make it possible to keep these vessels operating along their current route. Part of the Maritime Administration's mission is to promote effective intermodal water and land transportation systems; therefore, I believe that your agency has an obligation to play a role in saving this vital transportation service.
I look forward to your timely response and appreciate any assistance you can offer to keep this ferry service intact.
FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress
CC: U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen