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Contact: Brent Everitt, 850-934-2600
Gulf Breeze, Fla. – The National Park Service has selected Gulf Coast Maritime Services, Inc. to operate Pensacola Bay Cruises. The concessioner will be responsible to provide at least three loops per day of passenger ferry service between Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, and Fort Pickens. The selection of an operator marks the next critical step in the process to bring the water based experience to the Florida area of Gulf Islands National Seashore, and provide alternative access to Pensacola Beach from Pensacola.
Apart from the ferry service, the concessioner will provide a limited food and beverage operation at the Fort Pickens historic Mine Storeroom. More details on the operation, including schedules and prices, will be announced once the contract with Gulf Coast Maritime Services, Inc. has been finalized.
Two National Park Service owned 150-passenger double-decker catamaran ferry boats will be assigned to the Gulf Coast Maritime Services, Inc. to provide the service. In 2016, local fourth graders named the ferries Turtle Runner and Pelican Perch. The ferry boats are scheduled to be taken out of dry dock in April and undergo final inspection and sea trials by the U.S. Coast Guard. Once completed, operations will begin; the national seashore anticipates this being completed in time for a May 18, 2018 start date.
“We’re excited to start working with Gulf Coast Maritime Services, Inc. and begin the Pensacola Bay Cruises service,” said Superintendent Dan Brown. Captain George Aswad of Gulf Coast Maritime Services, Inc., said “We are looking forward to servicing the Pensacola Bay area and working with the National Park Service, the town and the people.”
Gulf Coast Maritime Services, Inc. currently operates the ferry at Cape Lookout National Seashore and has years of experience working with the National Park Service. The national seashore and its partners are confident they will bring an experienced and capable team to operation at Gulf Islands National Seashore. “We congratulate Gulf Coast Maritime Services and Gulf Islands National Seashore on this great step forward in providing new amenities for both the people of Pensacola and our visitors,” said Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward.
The National Park Service received multiple responsive offers in January 2018 for the Pensacola Bay Cruises service. Theses offers were evaluated by a panel of experts, not employed at Gulf Islands National Seashore. Gulf Coast Maritime Services, Inc. was selected under the provisions of the 1998 Concessions Management Improvement Act. Guidelines used to evaluate the proposal can be found online at: https://www.nps.gov/commercialservices/
About Gulf Islands National Seashore: Created in 1971, the national seashore stretches 160 miles along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida and Mississippi, and includes barrier islands, maritime forests, historic forts, bayous, and marine habitat. Visit us at www.nps.gov/guis, on Facebook www.Facebook.com/GulfIslandsNPS, Twitter www.Twitter.com/GulfIslandsNPS, and Instagram www.Instagram.com/GulfIslandsNPS.
About the National Park Service: More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 413 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit us at www.nps.gov, on Facebook www.facebook.com/nationalparkservice and Twitter www.twitter.com/natlparkservice.