As the Coast Guard said Thursday it could take up to six weeks for inspection of the water taxis, a city committee voted to begin negotiations with Lakeshore Marine to provide permanent water taxi service.
The group is comprised of the local men who used to work for the Baltimore-based company that ceased operating. An official with the company said the group is “excited to bring water service back to Jacksonville.”
“We approve of the company to begin negotiations,” said Dave DeCamp, spokesman for the Mayor's Office. “City staff will sit down with the ownership to talk about how we organize the service.”
The downtown water taxis are still sitting at the Sadler Point Marina in Lake Shore.
The Coast Guard said it did a preliminary walk-through and found no major deficiencies.
There is no timetable for the formal inspections, which might not happen for as long as six weeks.
“It's a long process to get these things reviewed and the National Vessel Documentation Center is busy,” said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Marc Montemerlo. “Not only do they do commercial vessels but they do recreational vessels. And obviously it being the summertime they may have an influx of rec boats that need to get documented.”
The city hoped to have the vessels in service in time for the Jaguars' first preseason home game Aug. 8, but that's considered unlikely.
“We're working as hard as we can and the Jaguars know that,” DeCamp said. “They're great partners in that. Our partners Downtown know that. And as soon as we can restore service we're going to.”
The city said Wednesday it would take two to three weeks before it gets Coast Guard approval for the two boats, but the Coast Guard said Thursday it could be longer.
"We're trying to expedite that, but you're absolutely right, there are a number of events coming up," said Karen Bowling, of the Mayor's Office. "We're working closely with the (Jacksonville Transportation Authority) to make sure people have multiple means of transportation to get to the stadium."