R.I. Fast Ferry seeking additional year to meet DPUC license requirements

RHODE ISLAND FAST FERRY filed Tuesday with the R.I. Division of Public Utilities and Carriers a request to extend the deadline to fulfill the DPUC's requirements to obtain an operations license to run a fast ferry from Quonset Point in North Kingstown to Block Island. / COURTESY RHODE ISLAND FAST FERRY

WARWICK — Rhode Island Fast Ferry is seeking a one-year extension on its deadline to fulfill the necessary requirements put forth by the R.I. Division of Public Utilities and Carriers in order to obtain an operations license to run a seasonal fast ferry from Quonset Point in North Kingstown to Block Island.

Alan M. Shoer, James A. Hall and Nicole M. Verdi, attorneys for Providence-based firm Adler Pollock & Sheehan PC representing Rhode Island Fast Ferry and its owner, Charles A. Donadio Jr., filed the motion with the DPUC on Tuesday to extend the deadline to Sept. 22, 2019 – one year from the current deadline date.

In September 2017, the Division granted Rhode Island Fast Ferry a deadline extension in for “just cause,” according to hearing officer John Spirito Jr.’s Sept. 18, 2017 order, and Rhode Island Fast Ferry can seek additional continuances for just cause if those requirements are not met by the Sept. 22 deadline.

Among the conditions the DPUC requires of Rhode Island Fast Ferry when it approved Donadio’s application for a license in September 2016 are having necessary vessels, satisfying U.S. Coast Guard requirements and having docking facilities at both Quonset Point and Block Island, and others, and to have those conditions met within one year.

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In its latest extension request to DPUC, Rhode Island Fast Ferry cites “further delays” that developed during the appeal process, delays, Rhode Island Fast Ferry said, that were not caused by Donadio’s company. Currently, the DPUC’s September 2016 approval is being appealed by the town of New Shoreham and Interstate Navigation Co. – which operates Block Island Ferry from Narragansett, Newport and Fall River – in R.I. Superior Court as part of a lengthy dispute between all three entities.

The dispute dates back to 2013 when Donadio applied to operate a ferry from Quonset to the island, and both New Shoreham and Interstate have fought Rhode Island Fast Ferry on several matters, including proposed docking in Old Harbor. Last month, after two remand hearings in March and April where New Shoreham argued Rhode Island Fast Ferry and Bluewater LLC – the company contracted to build docks for Donadio’s proposed service – do not have a realistic expectation to build docks in Old Harbor, the DPUC found “insufficient cause” to revisit those questions and had the matter returned to Superior Court.

“It is self-evident that since September of 2017, [New Shoreham and Interstate] have worked tirelessly to delay this appeal,” Rhode Island Fast Ferry alleges in its extension request.

Michael McElroy, of the Providence-based firm Schacht & McElroy representing Interstate, said in a brief interview Friday that both Interstate and New Shoreham plan to file within the allotted 10-day appeal window their objections to Rhode Island Fast Ferry’s extension request with the DPUC. McElroy declined to offer specifics on what those objections are, stating they will “all be outlined” in what New Shoreham and Interstate files.

James Bessette is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Research@PBN.com.