HARKERS ISLAND -

Island Express Ferry Service was awarded the contract for exclusive rights to ferry passengers to and from the Cape Lookout National Seashore, including Shackleford Banks and the area of South Core Banks.

Starting January 1, 2014, passengers will leave from Harkers Island and the Town of Beaufort on ferries provided only by Island Express Ferry Service.

There are 7 or 8 other ferry services currently operating with permits to the parks. Several of those services have said they will close all together because of the Park's decision to move to one ferry.

However, park officials said the move will make it easier for visitors to reach the park.

"We're looking to have a gateway experience for the visitor," said Cape Lookout National Seashore Superintendent Pat Kenney. "They will arrive at the national park service visitors center and they will get onto a ferry here to go to the park."

Not all other ferry services will close. Denard Harris, who owns Portside Marina in Morehead City, said he will just move to providing tours to the island. The NPS will still allow touring permits to the park, though vessels will have to send a tour guide with the passengers.

"We've always thought that our visitors would be better off if there was a tour guide with them," Harris said.

Harris admits it's easier for him to adjust because ferrying passengers to the park was just part of his business. Portside Marina serves mainly as a boat shop.

In addition to the two new ferries, the NPS will establish a visitors information center in the Town of Beaufort that will be located in the historic post office.