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SECOND FAST FERRY COMPANY PLANS APRIL START-UP

March 6, 2002 – Starting next month, a second high-speed ferry is expected to make the 40-mile run between St. Croix and St. Thomas on a regular schedule.
A small investment group headed by St. Croix resident Chris Elliott will launch Mermaid Fast Ferries in mid-April, becoming the second company to start up inter-island service within five months. Elliott, who owns real estate in downtown Christiansted, said a state-of-the-art, 135-foot, 357-passenger Fjellstrand fast-ferry catamaran has been purchased.
"We've spent a tremendous amount of time traveling around the world looking at designs," he said of the Norwegian-built "Flying Cat." "It's been designed to handle heavy ocean seas, as in the North Sea."
Elliott said the trip between islands on the new ferry will offer more amenities than the competition, including movies, occasional live music, bars and light food service. "I think you will see our vessel is much more like … a cruise ship," he said, adding, "They are going to call us the fun ferry."
The new venture joins Boston Harbor Cruises' V.I. Fast Ferry service, which began providing thrice-daily round trips aboard the Salicia in November. But whereas the Salicia is operating locally only during the winter season, Elliott said Mermaid will operate all year. The plan is to offer three round-trips a day. Fares and schedules have yet to be announced.
"We've been looking for an avenue to help bolster the economy on St. Croix for some time now," Elliott said. He said the company plans to add a second vessel next season and has identified other potential routes. He did not provide specifics.
On Thursday, Passage Maker LLC, the parent company of the local venture Mermaid Fast Ferries, Transportation & Tours, is expected to provide more information about its operations when it appears before the Economic Development Commission to apply for tax benefits. The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Casino Control Commission hearing room on St. Croix.

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