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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, February 8, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesNew Ambulance Boat in the Works

New Ambulance Boat in the Works

Pictured are the design drawings for the proposed ambulance boat (Illustration courtesy Government House).After more than a decade and a half of effort, a new purpose-built ambulance boat is in the works for St. John. Government House announced Wednesday that the government had signed a contract with St. Croix’s Gold Coast Yachts to build a state-of-the-art boat to be based on St. John.
“This is good news for the people of St. John,” St. John Administrator Leona Smith said.
The current boat, the Star of Life 4, has served as St. John’s ambulance boat since 1991 after it was taken in a seizure. However, it was not built as an ambulance boat.
Smith said that it’s currently not operating, with the Health Department contracting with Water Taxi to transfer patients from St. John to St. Thomas. The boat has suffered intermittent mechanical problems for many years.
However, Government House spokesman Jean Greaux said the Star of Life 4 will be repaired and used until the new boat is available. He said that between $6,000 and $7,000 is appropriated to buy the necessary parts. He did not know when work would be completed.
Smith sees that having a local company build the boat is a plus.
“If anything goes wrong, it’s right there in the Virgin Islands,” Smith said.
Additionally, Smith said building the boat on St. Croix provides jobs for the island’s workers.
Greaux put the price tag for the new boat at $787,000.
Health Commissioner Julia Sheen said in a press release that the boat should be in use by November.
It will take Gold Coast about four months to build it, Gold Coast Vice President Roger Hatfield said. He said the company hasn’t yet received final approval from the Health Department, but Gold Coast is ready to start building as soon as it gets the go-ahead.
Once Gold Coast finishes the boat, Hatfield said that the Health Department will install the medical items, such as a defibrillator, that turn it into an ambulance boat.
The boat will be 49 feet long. It’s catamaran – a boat with twin hulls.
“The ride for the passenger should be better,” Hatfield said.
As for the name of the new boat, Greaux said that’s up for discussion.
“I’m not sure what they’re going to name it,” Greaux said.
According to Government House, the proposed boat draws 3 feet, 5 inches and weighs 18,000 pounds, and has a top speed of 30 knots per hour, with the cruising speed at 25 knots per hour.
The boat will have better maneuverability than the old boat and access to shallow bays and areas, Sheen said. She said the new boat will hold four to six stretchers compared to two in the old boat. The new boat can accommodate a crew of five.
Gov. John deJongh Jr. said in a press release that the ambulance boat will also be able to assist in marine emergencies.
“Thus, we were very meticulous with design details, even to bringing in a highly recommended consultant from the U.S. Coast Guard to assist in this endeavor,” deJongh said.
Assistant Health Commissioner Fern P. Clarke, Star of Life Cpt. Liston Sprauve and Smith were on the team that picked Gold Coast Yachts. They went to Lewes, Del., and Northport, N.Y., to look at vessels used in those jurisdictions to provide emergency medical transport.
“We did our due diligence,” Smith said.

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