SOUTHPORT, N.C. (WECT) - After being closed for over half the year due to a ramp overhaul on the Southport-Ft. Fisher ferry line, the ferry reopened in July but not without some hiccups.
“The new hydraulic system is the first time we ever had this [ramp] system,” said Brad Gurganus, the NCDOT Ferry Superintendent for District Two. “And there’s just been a few little items that we’ve had problems with, but the contractors come back and fix those. When we first opened back up, we had a few issues with our vessel, but all of those have been taken care of.”
The ferry closed in January to install a new ramp system to help prevent accidental failures. The work was originally scheduled to finish in early April, but due to the pandemic, the work was put on pause. Finally in July, it reopened.
“[NCDOT] actually shipped us to locations of up to the Outer Banks,” said Marybeth Ray, longtime NCDOT Ferry captain. “It’s interesting to get to another location.”
But since it reopened in July, there have been over a dozen changes in the schedule due to inclement weather or mechanical issues; issues many assumed would be resolved during the seven months the ferry wasn’t operational.
Gurganus says the issues are normal wear and tear that all ferry vessels along North Carolina’s coast face. He said the mechanical problems have since been fixed and there shouldn’t be issues for awhile.
But some Southport businesses say the recent issues with the ferry haven’t impacted business. They’re just glad it’s finally open again.
“For Fourth of July, which is usually one of our biggest days of the year, [the ferry] was closed and we usually get a lot of service from like Fort Fisher people, Kure beach, Carolina beach of course, Wilmington,” said Tanner McNabb, a bartender at Silver Coast Winery. “But that was a pretty low day because of the no influx from the ferry. And actually a week after the ferry opened, we beat the Fourth of July day just because the ferry was up in finally.”
To learn more about the ferry or view the schedule, click here.