Delivery of new Jamestown ferry delayed after VDOT requests build changes

Staff writer

The Jamestown-Scotland Ferry service’s newest ferry won’t arrive on schedule this year. Instead, the Virginia Department of Transportation aims for delivery of the vessel in the early spring of next year.

The Powhatan will be the newest ship to enter the ferry service fleet, as well as the largest; it will be able to carry 20 more cars than the next largest ships.

The Mississippi shipyard building the vessel discovered an issue with the propulsion system during dockside trials after its initial launch in August.

The ship entered its final phase of original construction at the time of the launch, however, in late September, VDOT requested modifications to the construction plan to minimize vibrations in the drive shaft of the propulsion system, according to VDOT spokeswoman Nina Napolitano.

VDOT wants the problem fixed before putting the boat into service, Napolitano wrote in an email.

“Although the discovery has delayed the project, this is exactly the kind of issue we had hoped to uncover during dockside trials and eventually sea trials,” Napolitano wrote.

Throughout the process, the Coast Guard has conducted routine inspections of the ship as it has been built, Napolitano said.

The modifications could take months to complete and the Powhatan will still need to pass sea trials before it is delivered to VDOT, according to Napolitano.

In addition to sea trials, the Coast Guard will test the vessel and provide information on how weight should be distributed on its deck, according to James River facility manager Wes Ripley.

Once the ship is delivered to VDOT in Virginia, a local Coast Guard crew will inspect it again, Napolitano said.

Safety is something the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry service takes seriously, Ripley said in July.

There have been no fatalities or serious injuries at the fault of the ferry service in the past 30 years, Ripley said at the time.

When it enters service, the Powhatan will replace the 82-year-old ferry the Virginia, according to Virginia Gazette archives. The newer double-ended steel hull ferry will be able to carry nearly three times as many cars as its predecessor, which could only transport 25 cars at a time between James City County and Surry County.

Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329, by email at srobertsjr@vagazette.com and on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.

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