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MANNS HARBOR, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina Ferry Division is making progress on two new vessels including a passenger-only ferry set to debut in 2018.

The Virginian-Pilot newspaper reports that the express ferry between Ocracoke and Hatteras is set to begin this summer. It will be faster but also cost slightly more than fares for the traditional ferries that also carry vehicles. The 98-passenger catamaran-style ferry is being built at a shipyard in Swansboro.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation also recently awarded a contract to build a ferry that can carry 38 cars — an increase of about a dozen. The new ferry’s arrival in 2019 will allow the state to retire a 22-year-old vessel.

“This is a great first step in phasing out our smaller boats and replacing them with larger ones,” the division’s director, Harold Thomas, said in a release. “Eventually it will allow us to increase our capacity with the same number of scheduled trips.”

Villagers on Ocracoke are optimistic that the new ferries will increase business at island shops.

The Ferry Division is also making changes to winter routes that should allow it to save $100,000 in fuel, said spokesman Tim Hass.

The division is limiting service between Hatteras Island and Ocracoke to 14 daily round trips — down from 18 — in January and February. By comparison, there are 36 round trips during busier summer months.

Also, the route between Knotts Island and the Currituck mainland will be curtailed in January with an earlier final departure. The last departure from the Currituck mainland will be at 3:30 p.m. and from Knotts Island at 4:30 p.m. And in the summer, dock maintenance will shut down the Currituck-Knotts Island route from June 7 through Aug. 6.


Information from: The Virginian-Pilot,