Ocracoke Express in the Pamlico Sound in 2019. Photo: Peter Vankevich

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MANNS HARBOR – Owing to the impacts of COVID-19, the N.C. Department of Transportation has canceled its 2020 contract for the Ocracoke Express passenger ferry.

“There’s just so much uncertainty with this virus,” said Tim Hass, Ferry Division spokesman, notably, what restrictions will be in place for social distancing and mask wearing.

The travel needs are uncertain as will be the crowd restrictions, Hass said.

The vehicle ferries will continue between Hatteras and Ocracoke and ferry personnel will encourage those passengers to remain in their vehicles or stand at least six feet from other people while on board.

Hass said the current schedule of the three routes will continue for now as well.

“They look at the traffic every week,” he said about monitoring traffic when Ocracoke reopens to non-resident property owners on May 11.

The passenger ferry was introduced in 2019 as a transportation alternative for people traveling between Hatteras and Ocracoke islands on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

The Ferry Division last summer leased a 150-passenger ferry from Seastreak Marine out of New Jersey from late May to Labor Day. More than 28,600 people used the passenger ferry last summer, the Ferry Division said. 

Ferry officials expect to decide whether to resume passenger ferry service next year in the coming months.