Wall Street billionaire and Two River Times columnist Mickey Gooch and other investors are reluctantly moving toward a purchase of the SeaStreak ferry line that runs from northern Monmouth County to Manhattan, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

Reluctantly, that is, because Gooch, of Rumson, and his prospective partners are only stepping in to save the service. SeaStreak’s parent company, Sea Containers Inc., has been in bankruptcy for over a year, and the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago is said to have offered $30 million for the line’s four catamarans.

From the article:

“Myself and other investors are not really, frankly, interested in being ferry operators,” Gooch said. “We’re just interested in seeing a quality ferry service continue.”


In addition to working with investors, Gooch said he has talked to a ferry operator about taking over the service and investing in it. He declined to name the operator. But he said he is close to making what he called a “preliminary, nonbinding bid.”

Gooch said there is little to prevent the vessels from being sold to Trinidad & Tobago — or to any other buyer. So local legislators have asked government agencies to intervene if the vessels are sold to a foreign country — if only to give Gooch and his investment group more time.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. asked the U.S. Maritime Administration to block the vessels’ sale to a foreign country. But Shannon Russell, a spokeswoman for the agency, said, the agency only regulates the sale of U.S. vessels that weigh more than 1,000 gross tons, which is bigger than the SeaStreak boats.

“There’s nothing that the Maritime Administration can do to stop this sale if, in fact, it happens,” Russell said. “It’s not against the law. It’s nothing that we regulate.”

In New Jersey, state Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos Jr., Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck and Assemblyman Sean Kean, all R-Monmouth, last week wrote Attorney General Anne Milgram and asked her to investigate legal grounds to block the vessels’ sale to a foreign country.

Lee Moore, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said attorneys are reviewing the letter.

Gooch said other hurdles remain. Namely, the local investment group won’t pay more than what the boats are worth, making it unlikely that it would get involved in a bidding war that would make it a money-losing venture.

“Individuals are willing to put up money to save the service, but not lose money,” he said. “They want to know if they did invest, it would be professionally run and the economics make sense. We’re trying to put that together.”

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