ROCKLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- People and businesses who use the state ferry to the island of Vinalhaven aren't quite sure what boat they'll be taking on any given day - and that's causing some problems.
The Maine State Ferry Service began using a new, larger ferry in April, named the E. Frank Thompson. It carries more cars and trucks than the other ferry on the Vinalhaven route, and customers say it has reduced waiting lines. But the ferry service says the Coast Guard has determined the bigger boat also needs a bigger crew, and there's no money in the budget.
Manager Jim MacLeod says they have been using overtime and part-time workers to fill out the crew. But he says there have been some days when the larger boat couldn't make the trip because they couldn't find enough people to work. MacLeod says that has been frustrating for passengers, and for the Vinalhaven Fishermen's Co-op, which depends on the ferry to truck its lobsters to the mainland.
Vinalhaven Town Manager Marjorie Stratton says fishermen were very worried last week, when it looked like the larger boat would not be able to make the trip Saturday. Stratton says co-op members feared they wouldn't be able to get all their lobsters shipped out and that some might die. It turned out that the Ferry Service was able to find sufficient crew at the last minute and the Thompson made the trip as scheduled.
Jim MacLeod says they need to hire two more so-called "ordinary seamen" to staff the ferry. Since the Ferry Service is part of the Maine Department of Transportation, all requests for new positions have to be approved by the Governor. The spokeswoman for Gov. Paul LePage says they have received the request and are now reviewing it.
Jim MacLeod says they weren't able to anticipate the need for additional crew because the Coast Guard wouldn't make that determination until after the new ferry was built and delivered, and they could inspect it. The Ferry Service took delivery in March, and Macleod says that was too late to put the added positions in the budget.