Money Watchers: Interstate Navigation opposes competing service

Interstate Navigation Co., the company that operates the Block Island Ferry from Point Judith, is opposing a rival's plans for a high-speed ferry from North Kingstown to the island.

Rhode Island Fast Ferry Inc. wants to buy another boat and expand service to Block Island. Rhode Island Fast Ferry already operates between Quonset and Martha's Vineyard.

Interstate Navigation currently runs the only ferry service to Block Island from Rhode Island. According to court filings, Interstate Navigation sells 200,000 round-trip tickets per year -- more than 170,000 of those during the summer season.

Interstate Navigation doesn't want to see a boat run out of Quonset, which it claims will cut into its most profitable months and drive up costs year round for residents who depend on the service for the off season.

"Interstate Navigation has been in monopoly for 80 years. They're a Connecticut company. I'm a Rhode Island company. Competition is good for all consumers. They tend to drive the prices down and give more options to the consumer," said Charlie Donadio of Rhode Island Fast Ferry.

Interstate opposes the plan, saying the competition will siphon off business and force it to hike rates or reduce service.

"This service has been provided for 80 years. We respect the process set out by the Division (of Public Utilities and Carriers) and of those that wish to apply for such a license to operate. The proper and official forum for our position will be addressed to the Division when hearings are held in April," Christian Myers of Interstate Navigation said in a statement.

Interstate Navigation is planning to offer high-speed ferry service from Fall River to Block Island next year.