MANNS HARBOR - The NCDOT Ferry Division's Hatteras-Ocracoke route is expected to return to its original route with the start of service on Sunday morning, according to a news release. The move is the result of collaboration between the Ferry Division, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for keeping the Hatteras Inlet clear, had been dredging out a 10 to 12-foot deep path for ferry travel since May 31. That work wrapped up earlier on Saturday. The Coast Guard then marked the navigational aids for the route. The final step in the process saw the Ferry Division make test runs along the 40-minute path between the Hatteras and Ocracoke ferry stations to ensure it would be a safe trip for passengers, the crew and the ferry vessels.
This will be the first time there has been ferry service on the original route since Jan. 18, when an overnight storm made it too shallow for ferries to travel safely. The alternate route between Hatteras and Ocracoke has been in use since Jan. 22.
With the return of the original route, there will be 32 daily trips in each direction, starting at 5 a.m. from both Hatteras and Ocracoke.
Going out of Hatteras, there is a departure at 6 a.m., and then every half hour at the top and bottom of the hour from 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. The evening schedule has trips at 8, 9, 10 and 11 p.m. and midnight.
The Ocracoke schedule also has departures at 6 and 7 a.m., then starting at 8 a.m. goes to every half hour at the top and bottom of the hour until 8 p.m. The schedule wraps up with departures at 9, 10 and 11 p.m. and midnight.
Shifting sand in the Hatteras Inlet has been an increasing problem for ferry travel in recent years, creating issues where they did not previously exist. This is partly due to the number of hurricanes and nor'easters that have hit the area. Once the latest problem developed in January, the Corps of Engineers conducted considerable dredging through the spring, but tests in late April showed that in three areas of the inlet, sand had already started to shift back to the areas dredged several weeks earlier. That led to the second round of dredging that wrapped up Saturday.
For more information about the Hatteras ferry route, travelers can sign-up to receive messages on Twitter by going to www.twitter.com/ncdot_ferry or visit the N.C. 12 Facebook page.