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Catalina Flyer suspends service for upgrade

Catamaran will resume daily runs to Avalon in February.

September 07, 2010|By Tom Ragan, Los Angeles Times

The Catalina Flyer, a 500-passenger catamaran that makes daily trips to Santa Catalina Island from the Balboa Pavilion in Newport Beach, may halt operations for a few months so its owner can buy and install engines that comply with a state environmental law.

Bob Black, general manager for the tour boat company, said that unless he's able to find a catamaran to lease, he may suspend service to Avalon as early as Sept. 12.

"I'm not thrilled about having to do this, but it's something we've got to do," said Black, referring to the purchase of two engines that will cost him nearly $1 million.

The boat ferries hundreds of passengers each day between Catalina Island and Newport Harbor.

With one-way trips taking about an hour and 15 minutes, the Catalina Flyer is the fastest commercial service from Newport Beach to the island, according to its website.

Black said that the ship's engine is in fine shape and that he doesn't believe it is polluting the waters. The state, however, requires all commercial vessels to be equipped with new engines that reduce emissions in compliance with the Commercial Harbor Craft Regulation.

The purpose of the law, which was adopted Nov. 15, 2007, by the California Air Resources Board and took effect in 2009, is to reduce the amount of pollution caused by diesel engines on commercial harbor craft that operate within 24 nautical miles of the California coast.

Large commercial vessels generally can keep their engines for up to 15 years before they have to replace them in accordance with the Commercial Harbor Craft Regulation, Black said, adding that the Catalina Flyer's engines were bought in 1998 and are due to expire shortly.

With winter approaching, Black said, he does not expect to lose as much money as he would have during the summer. And he's participating in an incentive program that is helping owners of commercial craft buy new engines.

Still, his eight-member crew is going to be out of work until the ship is running again, probably in February.

Long Beach-based Catalina Express will still offer daily trips to Catalina from Long Beach and Dana Point, Black said.

The Catalina Flyer, the largest passenger-carrying catamaran on the West Coast, has been in business since the 1960s, he said.

tom.ragan@latimes.com

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