Repairs being made to St. Johns River Ferry

Boat pulled from water to fix crack in hull

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Repairs are being made to the St. Johns River Ferry, which has been out of service since Monday because of a stress fracture in the hull that was discovered by a crew member.

Riders are being forced to find a different route across the water because the boat they rely on to cross from Fort George Island to Mayport, and vice versa, is up on dry land while it's being fixed.

In a downpour Thursday, the boat named the Jean Ribault was hauled out of the water, a process that took about four hours.

"In order for it to be re-certified and be able to carry passengers again, repairs need to be done immediately," said Jeff Giese, of BAE Systems.

The damage is hard to see, but there's a crack in the hull on the port side of the ferry.

"The Coast Guard did an inspection, I think, last week, and they actually noted some water seeping into the rudder area," Giese said. "And when they did an inspection, they found some cracks in the shell plate. So we're bringing it on dock to cut out the old steel and replace it with new steel."

The repairs are expected to cost about $100,000 and must be done before the boat can be put back in the water.

"It's a safety issue for passengers and the ferry," Giese said. "If it increased, it could actually take on more water and potentially sink."

The ferry is expected to be ready for riders again by Wednesday morning, but it all depends on how the repairs go.

The repairs are being paid for by a public-public partnership between the Jacksonville Port Authority, the Florida Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, which have agreed to use federal Ferry Boat Discretionary Grant funds already awarded to the port for the emergency dry docking and repairs.

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