Arnold Transit to end ferry service to Mackinac Island

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

After 138 years of ferrying people back and forth to Mackinac Island, Arnold Transit is shutting down its passenger ferry service.

Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry, a competitor, announced plans to purchase Arnold Transit ferries, a freighter, four docks, a boatyard and parking lots in Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. The 38-year-old company will continue to operate Arnold Transit’s “Huron” ferry.

The steel hull passenger ferry is the only transportation to the island during the winter.

“Star Line is looking forward to increasing and improving options for our passengers while keeping the historic boats and properties that families have grown to love over the years, operational,” Jerry Fetty, Star Line CEO, said in a news release.

Fetty did not announce how much Star Line paid for the Arnold assets.

Star Line was founded in 1978 in St. Ignace. The company is known for their high-speed “hydro-jet rooster tail boats” that shipped people quickly across the water.

Arnold Transit started with coal-fire steam boats through the turn of the 19th century. After World War II, the company added diesel boats to its fleet. The company has been suffering financially for most of the last six years.

Star Line intends to purchase Arnold Transit’s Huron, Chippewa, Ottawa, Straits of Mackinac II, Mackinac Islander and Algomah ferries. All the purchased assets will operate under the Star Line name.

According to a news release, Star Line “has plans for making changes and improvements throughout the winter to bring the Arnold Line boats up to Star Line’s standards to further enhance their customers’ experience when the summer 2017 season begins.”

“By combining the assets of Arnold Line into Star Line’s operations, we will be able to provide the best possible service and experience for islanders and visitors to Mackinac Island,” Fetty said.

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Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau