By Joy Crist, Island Free Press
North Carolina’s own “Ocracoke Express” passenger ferry landed in Hatteras village on Wednesday, February 23, after being navigated to the Hatteras ferry terminal from the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s terminal in Cherry Point, N.C., where it has been stationed for the past few months.
“The builder is in the final stages of testing and U.S. Coast Guard approvals for the Ocracoke Express. The vessel has been moved to Hatteras to allow for crew member training,” stated Tim Hass, Communications Officer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Ferry Division. “We don’t have an exact timeline for when the Ocracoke Express will be put into operation, but we will update the public when that information becomes available.”
Though originally scheduled to be completed in 2018, the construction of the Ocracoke passenger ferry encountered multiple delays, and the NCDOT leased a temporary passenger ferry for its first three seasons of operation, beginning in 2019.
Per the original specs, the state-owned Ocracoke Express is a 100-passenger, catamaran-style ferry with 96 interior seats, an upper deck with 26 additional seats, two wheelchair tie-downs, 16 bicycle racks, wireless internet access, and a concession area. The route takes passengers from the Hatteras Ferry docks to Silver Lake Harbor in Ocracoke village and back, in a trip that is around 70 minutes each way.
The passenger ferry service was created to alleviate summertime congestion on the popular Hatteras-Ocracoke vehicle ferry route, and typically runs from May until early September. 2021’s season, which began on June 21 and ended on Labor Day, saw a total of 16,594 people use the passenger ferry service.
Once the opening date has been announced, passengers may purchase tickets directly at the Hatteras or Ocracoke-Silver Lake Terminals on a first-come, first-served basis, and advanced reservations will also be available at www.ncferry.org.