An island off Hilton Head has lost its only ferry capable of handling large vehicles.
Coast Guard inspectors earlier this month shut down a barge which transports cars to Daufuskie Island, saying its condition was “unsafe.” The order leaves no current method of transporting large cargo or vehicles to the small barrier island which has no bridge or road from the mainland.
Lt. J.B. Zorn told South Carolina Radio Network the ferry was operating without an inspection certificate. “Our goal is to maintain commerce in a safe way, but also avoid a potentially catastrophic marine casualty or other serious issue,” he said.
The marine inspectors examined the vessel at its mooring on Hilton Head on November 8, according to the Coast Guard. They cited issues with the vessel’s structural integrity, lack of firefighting equipment and electrical wiring issues. The Captain of the Port ordered the tug to halt its towing operations in response.
J&W Operators runs the barge between Hilton Head and Daufuskie several days each week. An attorney representing the company told the Hilton Head Island Packet it will take at least two weeks for another vessel to travel from Savannah to the islands.
The attorney Tom Taylor disputed the lack of inspection certificate, saying the ferry was not in operation when inspectors arrived and therefore not violating any federal regulations. Taylor called the order the “embodiment of big government gone bad: a federal agency answerable to no one that refuses to fairly deal with small businesses.”