The Richmond Register

Local News

July 16, 2013

Legislation proposed to change ferry captain training

Valley View Ferry having difficulty hiring licensed captains

RICHMOND — Legislation has been introduced in Congress to change the licensing requirements for Valley View Ferry pilots, but local leaders already are working on ways to get the ferry reopened on weekends.

Rep. Andy Barr, R-Sixth District, proposed the Valley View Ferry Preservation Act of 2013 on June 27. He said Monday he is working on gathering co-sponsors for the bill.

Last month, the Valley View Ferry Authority was forced to reduce the boat’s hours and close it on weekends because one of the two captains resigned.

The ferry is now open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. U.S. Coast Guard regulations limit boat captains from working more than 12 hours a day.

All ferry pilots must be licensed through the U.S. Coast Guard, and they are required to go through extensive training and background checks.

This is making it difficult to hire pilots for the Valley View Ferry, which does not have steering capabilities and makes its 500-foot journey each way tethered to steel cables, according to Madison County Magistrate Roger Barger. He also is the Valley View Ferry Authority chair.

A new licensed pilot would start out making $13 to $13.50 an hour at Valley View. The current captain, who has 22 years of experience, makes $16, according to Barger.

Captains with the same license, however, can make much more money piloting large transport boats on major rivers, such as the Ohio and Mississippi, and along ocean shores, the magistrate said.

Barger and other authority members are pushing to reduce the training requirements for captains of small, rural ferries.

The authority does not want to change any regulations related to safety, Barger added. The U.S. Coast Guard conducted a planned inspection in late June, and the ferry did not have any problems, he said.

The proposed House bill would basically turn over the authority for the licensing requirements to the state, according to Barr’s Communications Director Catherine Gatewood.

The U.S. House of Representatives first must pass the bill, then the state would need to take action to serve as a substitute for the licensing requirements that are currently inhibiting the ferry’s full-time operation, Gatewood said.

That could take the form of either a new state law or regulation, she wrote in an email.

For example, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife or the Transportation Cabinet could create a regulation establishing new licensing requirements for river ferry pilots.

The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the U.S. Coast Guard, would then determine whether sufficient state laws or regulations were in place, Gatewood said.

Gatewood said Barr is confident that enough progress can be made on the issue to get the ferry back in full operation.

Barger said it is still important that any potential Valley View captain gets the training necessary to safely operate the boat. He said they would still have the trainees ride the ferry for 90 days with the captain but then complete their training in a more simplified, local program.

A worker has been hired to ride with the ferry’s pilot for 90 days, then he will be eligible for the U.S. Coast Guard captain training and licensing, according to Barger.

The Valley View Ferry Authority also is working with another licensed individual who may be able to operate the ferry on weekends.

Sarah Hogsed can be reached at shogsed@richmondregister.com or 624-6694.

 

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