Casco Bay unschedule freight struggle: Who can carry? Who can't?

NOW: Freight ferry rules

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER)-- A water taxi driver says Casco Bay Ferry lines are hounding him. He claims it's because he tried to provide a service the ferry company cannot. Their disagreement may lead to new rules on the water.

Greg Bergman runs Atlantic Water Taxi, delivering people and sometimes goods to the islands, Until he got a cease and desist order from Casco Bay Lines after a last minute lumber delivery in June.

“He needed the wood brought out so his guys weren't standing around for the next four or five hours. So, in that case, it was just something that Casco Bay Lines couldn't do,” Bergman said.

Now, he fells bullied.

“The freight that I did bring over is stuff that water taxis have typically brought over to the islands,” he said. “I've been singled out, it appears, because I’ve built a boat that looks like it can carry a bit of cargo.”

Casco Bay Lines says that Bergman is conducting unlawful unscheduled freight deliveries, and without approval from the Public Utilities Commission. The ferry service has held a monopoly on freight deliveries to the islands since they started in 1981 as a semi-municipal service. Without it, the company says it would crumble.

“We're the lifeline to the islands,” said Henry “Hank” Berg, general manager of Casco Bay Lines. “Because we make money only for three or four months of the year, we really rely on that revenue so it can carry us through the rest of the year so we can serve the islands.”

Around the same time Bergman got the letter, the PUC started reviewing the statute- and they found a problem.

“We haven't looked at that rule since 2000,” said Harry Lanphear, administrative director of the PUC. “It was brought to our attention by the Atlantic Water Taxi company that there may be a legal issue related to how we evaluate who can and can't transport unscheduled freight.”

Now the PUC will review the legislation and come up with a revised set of rules, hopefully clear to everyone in the bay.

Bergman has since sent the PUC an application to be able to offer same day freight service deliveries to the island communities. The commission is now looking it over.

Because this is now an open case the PUC could not go into specifics about which parts of the legislation will be scrutinized or changed.
However, Lanphear did say the commission will accept public comment and hold special review meetings to determine the best course of action.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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