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August 24, 2017

Water taxi operator challenges Casco Bay's freight service 'monopoly'

The operator of Atlantic Water Taxi is seeking to take advantage of a loophole in Public Utilities Commission regulations — albeit one based on a reviser's mistake — in order to transport freight to six Casco Bay islands.

The Times Record reported that water taxi operator Greg Bergman built a new vessel over the winter capable of transporting freight to the Casco Bay islands.

When he transported a load of lumber to one of the islands in June, he received a cease-and-desist order from Casco Bay Lines telling him that the Portland-based ferry service had exclusive rights to carry freight to the islands.

Bergman is seeking a permit from the Public Utilities Commission to also carry freight, citing a statute that apparently was erroneously listed as being repealed for the last 16 years. He told the newspaper that his investment in a transport vessel was made in good faith and that when he consulted the statute it was listed as repealed, concluding that he shouldn't be penalized due to a mistake by the reviser's office.

"No one's trying to undercut them, and no one really can," Bergman said, referring to Casco Bay Lines.

But Casco Bay Lines general manager Hank Berg told the paper that allowing Bergman to compete would attract other competitors as well, noting that freight makes up about 12% of the ferry service's annual revenues.

"So if something like this happened, it would obviously impact our revenue," said Berg.

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