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Gulf Islands National Seashore, City of Pensacola, and Escambia County officials today announced the delay of the Pensacola Bay ferry service which had been scheduled to begin this spring. All partners continue working toward a spring 2018 startup.

The postponement has been caused by numerous factors, including:

  • Delays in the contracting processes for the ferry service operation
  • Delays in construction of departure facilities in downtown Pensacola due to increased construction costs
  • Receipt of a limited number of bids from interested ferry operators

In pursuing the original 2017 target, the National Park Service received and evaluated two bids to operate the ferry service, unfortunately, neither bid was acceptable. During follow-up interviews with several interested operators, a number of concerns were identified which discouraged them from submitting bids. The current status of departure site facilities, uncertain ridership and revenue history, and other unknown costs were contributing factors which are being evaluated by all three partners so they can be addressed.

The city and county are continuing to work toward completion of their waterside and landside departure site facilities. By making the determination now to delay the service until spring 2018, the city and county may be able to identify significant cost savings by coordinating their contracting efforts and by allowing for longer bid, award, and constructions timelines. All three partners agree that the delay is in the best interest of all stakeholders involved.

“We are disappointed that we are not going to begin the ferry service this season as we had hoped,” said Park Superintendent Dan Brown. “The delay is certainly not due to a lack of effort on any of the three partners, but rather by the extremely tight timelines created by a 2017 startup.” The three partners and Santa Rosa Island Authority met on Friday, January 13, to share status updates, and review the remaining tasks and revised timelines to achieve a spring 2018 startup.

Once established, the service will operate two 150-passenger ferries between downtown Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, and the Fort Pickens Area at Gulf Islands National Seashore. All partners are committed to completion of the Pensacola and Pensacola Beach departure location facilities and developing an attractive business opportunity in the local area.

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