The next step has been made in beginning the highly-anticipated Pensacola Bay passenger ferry service.
Gulf Islands National Seashore Superintendent Dan Brown announced today that after a nationwide competitive bid process, the National Park Service has awarded the contract for the design, construction and delivery of two 150 passenger catamaran ferry boats to All American Marine, located in Bellingham, Washington. The boats will be used for the Pensacola Bay passenger ferry service, scheduled to start in March 2017.
“We’re excited to be one step closer to the long-standing goal of a ferry service for Pensacola Bay,” said Brown. “The selection process for the boat builder was arduous, evaluating numerous proposals from throughout the country and the Gulf region. The emphasis was on high quality construction, passenger comfort, ease and low cost of maintenance and repair, reliability, and longevity.”
The aluminum ferries will have a climate controlled enclosed main deck and a shaded upper deck for observation, will be equipped with a snack bar for food and beverage service, restrooms, passenger storage, flat screen TVs and a sound system for on-board interpretation by NPS rangers. The boats will be fully accessible, meeting all ADA standards, and will have bike racks for those wishing to explore Fort Pickens or Santa Rosa Island by bicycle.
The passenger ferry service will operate in Pensacola Bay between the City of Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, and Fort Pickens in Gulf Islands National Seashore through an NPS concessions contract. The design and construction of the ferry terminals is making progress at each of the three landing sites — located at Plaza de Luna at Palafox Pier in downtown Pensacola, Quietwater Beach at Pensacola Beach and Fort Pickens. The Park Service estimates that over 65,000 passengers annually will take advantage of the ferry system.
The 35 to 45 minute excursion between landing sites will have a normal cruising speed of 12 knots, enabling passengers to observe wildlife while learning about the rich history of Pensacola Bay. Much of the route will be within the waters of the National Seashore, which extend into the Santa Rosa Sound and Pensacola Bay to the Intracoastal Waterway. The ferry ticket will offer “hop-on, hop-off” privileges, allowing passengers to travel all legs of the route during the day for a single ticket.
The two passenger ferries are scheduled to operate seasonally from mid-March through the end of October. Ferry operations are expected to be reduced during the off-peak winter season. To support the ferry system, passenger queuing areas – one with a ticketing facility and floating docks will be constructed at the Commendencia Slip area in the City of Pensacola and at Quietwater Beach on Pensacola Beach.