Ferry demand stays red-hot in NYC; tour sector shows strength
Compared to other vessel classes, ferry construction in North America is decidedly booming these days. And for shipyards still recovering from slowdowns in oil field service and tugboat construction, it couldn’t come at a better time.
Many of these new vessels are efficient, and several have next-generation propulsion systems designed for lower environmental impacts. The excursion boat sector is another relative bright spot, with a wide range of vessel deliveries and more operators embracing clean, efficient power plants.
Demand for ferry transit is rising around New York City, and Seastreak has responded with the largest-capacity fast ferry ever built in the United States to Coast Guard Subchapter K standards. Incat Crowther of Australia designed the 150-foot, 600-passenger Seastreak Commodore, and Gulf Craft of Franklin, La., built it. Delivery occurred in May (see profile here).
Elsewhere in the city, the NYC Ferry fleet operated jointly by the New York City Economic Development Corp. and Hornblower added a large high-speed vessel of its own. The 350-passenger Ocean Queen Rockstar is the first of six 97-by-28-foot ferries coming from Louisiana’s Metal Shark to meet growing ridership.
Ocean Queen Rockstar joined NYC Ferry in July. The 17-vessel fleet is comprised mostly of 150-passenger ferries of two types, both designed by Incat Crowther and built at Horizon Shipbuilding and Metal Shark. Earlier this year, Metal Shark acquired Horizon, based in Bayou La Batre, Ala.
Ocean Queen Rockstar, named by New York City second-graders, has twin Moteurs Baudouin 12M26.3 P2 engines each generating 1,340 horsepower. Its top speed is more than 30 knots; its typical operating speed is about 24 knots.
Metal Shark’s reach in the ferry sector extended past New York City to Greater Washington, D.C. The Louisiana builder delivered four 88-foot vessels to Potomac Water Taxi.
Courtesy Metal Shark
In the past year, Metal Shark also kept torches going on four 88-foot, 149-passenger high-speed vessels for Potomac Water Taxi, as well as two 149-passenger high-speed replacements for New Orleans’ ferries.
The Potomac vessels, operated by Potomac Riverboat Co., are part of a new service around Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia. Propulsion for the aluminum ferries comes from twin 500-hp Scania DI13 engines. BMT Designers and Planners of Alexandria, Va., provided the blueprints for the vessels.
The first new ferry for the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, RTA 1, arrived this summer. The two 105-foot vessels have twin Caterpillar C18 ACERT Tier 3 engines generating 671 hp each. They replace existing conventional ferries that have served the city for decades.
Greater Boston is another region with considerable gridlock that has bolstered its commuter ferry options. During the past year, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (known as the “T”) took delivery of two 150-passenger aluminum high-speed ferries.
Champion arrived last fall, and Glory entered service during the summer. Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding in nearby Somerset, Mass., built the vessels from plans developed by Incat Crowther. Dimensions are 89 feet by 29 feet with a 4-foot draft fully loaded.
Propulsion comes from twin 1,450-hp Caterpillar C32 12-cylinder engines, HamiltonJet HM571 waterjets and ZF 3050 gearboxes. Two 47-kW gensets built by R.A. Mitchell provide auxiliary power. The service speed is 26 knots and the vessels’ top speed is closer to 30.
Champion and Glory operate in Boston Harbor, where they replaced two existing high-speed ferries delivered nearly 20 years ago.
In-state neighbor Gladding-Hearn delivered Champion and another 150-passenger high-speed catamaran, Glory, to the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.
Courtesy Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding
Gladding-Hearn also is building a high-speed catamaran for Rhode Island Fast Ferry. The 320-passenger vessel, designed by Incat Crowther, will have twin MTU 12V 4000 M64 engines generating roughly 1,875 hp each. The expected service speed is 27 knots.
On the Gulf Coast, Southwest Shipyard LP of Houston built the 161-foot Amadeo Saenz Jr. for the Texas Department of Transportation. Elliott Bay Design Group of Seattle designed the 28-car, 149-passenger vessel linking Aransas Pass with Port Aransas.
Amadeo Saenz Jr. has a gas-electric propulsion system. It is driven by three Cummins QSK19 generators powering 600-hp Marelli electric motors on the bow and stern connected to the shaft line through Twin Disc gearboxes. The gensets also provide ship service power.
Midship Marine of Harvey, La., delivered two 92-foot high-speed catamaran ferries and two 157-foot high-speed catamaran ferries to Ultramar, a Mexican operator serving tourist destinations around Cancun. Incat Crowther designed the vessels.
The 92-foot City Jet 1 and City Jet 2 have 118 seats on the main deck and another 140 on the upper level. Propulsion comes from twin Yanmar 6HYM-WET engines, and the service speed is 22 knots.
The larger vessels, Ultramar I and Ultramar II, have space for 800 people. Propulsion on Ultramar II consists of twin MTU 16V 4000 63L engines each producing 3,000 hp. Ultramar I, delivered in early 2017, has twin Yanmar 12AYM-WGT mains each generating 1,800 hp for a service speed of 18 knots.
Three newbuilds destined for the NYC Ferry fleet await their final outfitting last September at the Metal Shark yard in Franklin, La.
Courtesy Metal Shark
In Panama City, Fla., crews at Eastern Shipbuilding Group continued work on three 320-by-70-foot Ollis-class vessels for the Staten Island Ferry. Propulsion will come from four EMD 12-710 Tier 4 engines generating a total of 9,980 hp. Two engines will turn a single Voith Schneider propeller at each end through Reintjes DUP 3000P combining reduction gears.
Elliott Bay Design Group designed the new ferries, which will have seating for 2,550 and space for 4,500 people in all. The ferries will connect Staten Island with Manhattan roughly 5.2 miles away. Delivery of the lead boat is expected next year.
The Virginia Department of Transportation’s latest ferry, Powhatan, was launched during the summer at VT Halter Marine in Pascagoula, Miss. The 270-by-65-foot ferry will be operated by the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry Service in Surry County, Va. It can hold up to 70 automobiles or 14 trucks and buses and up to 499 passengers.
In San Francisco, the Water Emergency Transportation Authority took delivery of Argo, the third in a series of four high-speed ferries from Vigor in Seattle. The fourth vessel in the class, Carina, is under construction and due for delivery later this year.
Incat Crowther designed the 135-foot, 400-passenger ferries. They are powered by MTU 12V 4000 M64 engines that can run on B5 biodiesel fuel. The engines are paired with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems to reduce emissions. The service speed is 27 knots. The two lead boats in the class, Hydrus and Cetus, were delivered in 2017.
In July, Washington State Ferries took delivery of the 362-foot Suquamish from Vigor in Seattle. The Olympic-class ferry can accommodate 1,500 passengers and 144 vehicles on two decks. Propulsion comes from twin EMD 12-710 engines producing 6,000 total hp. The service speed is 17 knots.
The 161-foot Amadeo Saenz Jr. has a propulsion system featuring three Cummins generators powering Marelli electric motors. The ferry from Southwest Shipyard L.P. operates in Port Aransas, Texas.
Courtesy Southwest Shipyard L.P.
Suquamish is the last of four Olympic-class vessels built by Vigor, and it will serve the Mukilteo-Clinton route starting in fall 2018. Other ferries in the class, which replaced 1950s-era vessels, are Tokitae, Samish and Chimacum.
Vigor also has continued work on two 280-foot ro-pax ferries for Alaska State Ferry. The lead Alaska-class vessel, Tazlina, was christened in August at Vigor’s Ketchikan yard. It is scheduled to enter service in May 2019. Hubbard is the second vessel in the class.
Both have space for 300 people and 53 cars, and will serve the Lynn Canal route between the Alaska communities of Juneau, Haines and Skagway.
Since late 2017, San Juan Ferry & Barge has operated the landing craft ferry Nordland II around the San Juan Islands of Washington state. Latitude Marine Services of La Conner, Wash., built the 86-foot vessel. Its cargo deck is 75 feet long.
Twin John Deere 6090 engines generating 285 hp each provide propulsion through ZF marine gears. DMW Marine Group supplied the knuckle-boom crane capable of lifting almost 2 tons.
North of the border, Davie Shipbuilding of Levis, Quebec, delivered the 300-foot Armand Imbeau II to operator Societe des Traversiers du Quebec. The ferry is the first of its kind built in North America to run on liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Deliveries from Chesapeake Shipbuilding in the past year included the 239-foot American Constitution. The ship will run East Coast excursions for American Cruise Lines.
Courtesy American Cruise Lines
Armand Imbeau II features a Wartsila dual-fuel propulsion system. The ferry, which can carry 430 passengers and up to 110 cars or 16 tractor-trailer units, operates on a one-mile route across the Saguenay River between Tadoussac and Baie-Sainte-Catherine. Concept Naval and STX Canada Marine designed the vessel.
In Halifax, Nova Scotia, the 78-foot passenger ferry Vincent Coleman entered service for Halifax Transit. E.Y.E. Marine Consultants of Bedford, Nova Scotia, designed the vessel and A.F. Theriault & Son Ltd. of Meteghan River, Nova Scotia, built it.
Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises of New York has added another Gladding-Hearn vessel to its fleet of excursion boats. The 165-foot, 599-passenger Circle Line Liberty, designed by DeJong & Lebet of Jacksonville, Fla., is the operator’s sixth from the Somerset, Mass., shipyard.
Circle Line Liberty gets propulsion from twin 1,300-hp Cummins QSK-38M1 diesels turning 60-inch, five-blade props through ZF W3355 gearboxes. Ship service power comes from two 140-kW John Deere gensets, and a 125-hp Wesmar bow thruster helps with docking and undocking.
Liberty has large double-glazed windows, multiple bars and a bandstand for live music. Heat on the ship comes from a 271,000-BTU diesel-fired boiler, while air conditioning is supplied by six 10-ton water-chilled coolers, according to Gladding-Hearn.
Sea Racer Tours of Fort Myers Beach, Fla., took delivery of the 70-foot tour boat Sea Racer. The fiberglass monohull resembles an ocean racing vessel and can hold 128 people. Twin 1,150-hp Caterpillar 3412 engines are capable of 38 knots. Ocean Rockets of Tuckahoe, N.J., designed and built the vessel.
Sabrage Charters of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, took delivery of the 63-foot Sabrage II tour boat built by Cooper Marine of St. Petersburg, Fla. The catamaran has twin 570-hp Fiat diesel main engines, two heads, a full bar and a JBL sound system.
In September, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders launched National Geographic Venture for Lindblad Expeditions. The 100-passenger Jones Act tour vessel follows sister National Geographic Quest from the Washington shipyard.
Courtesy Nichols Brothers Boat Builders
Sea Island Resort of Sea Island, Ga., welcomed the 49-passenger Sea Island Explorer in May. J&M Metal Works of Green Cove Springs, Fla., built the 71-foot custom yacht designed by DeJong & Lebet. The vessel has comfortable accommodations on two levels and is designed to run nature tours and harbor cruises around the resort island.
Gulf Craft of Franklin, La., delivered two 95-foot aluminum catamarans to Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. of Bar Harbor, Maine. Incat Crowther designed the two vessels, Acadia Explorer and Schoodic Explorer.
Propulsion comes from twin Caterpillar C32 ACERT engines rated for 1,300 hp each, along with HamiltonJet HM571 waterjets. Humphree Interceptor trim tabs also were installed for passenger comfort. Twin Cat C4.4 gensets provide electrical power. Service speed for the two vessels, which are used for whale watches, lighthouse cruises and other excursions, is 25 knots.
Chesapeake Shipbuilding of Salisbury, Md., delivered two small cruise ships to American Cruise Lines. The 269-foot American Song can accommodate 185 passengers during overnight river cruises, while the oceangoing American Constitution can carry 175 passengers.
In September, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders of Freeland, Wash., announced the launch of the 238-foot National Geographic Venture for Lindblad Expeditions. The 3,200-hp excursion vessel is a sister to National Geographic Quest, which was delivered last year. Jensen Maritime Consultants of Seattle designed the ships, which have 50 cabins and room for 100 passengers.
Armstrong Marine of Port Angeles, Wash., delivered the 40-foot catamaran Mirai to Honolulu-based Hawaii Experiences. The 49-passenger aluminum tour boat has four Evinrude outboards for 1,000 total hp, two heads and a running speed of 40 knots.
Armstrong also built J2, a 37-foot rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB), for Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching of Friday Harbor, Wash. The 900-hp vessel has triple Yamaha outboard motors, seating for 16, a head and an enclosed cabin.
Acadia Explorer is one of a pair of high-speed newbuilds from Gulf Craft of Franklin, La., that are now serving in the ocean waters off Maine. The excursion catamaran has Humphree trim tabs for an improved ride.
Courtesy Humphree USA
All American Marine of Bellingham, Wash., built the 73-foot tour boat Saratoga for Puget Sound Express. Teknicraft Design of Auckland, New Zealand, designed the 149-passenger high-speed catamaran.
Propulsion comes from four Scania D16 engines paired with HamiltonJet HJ364 waterjets through carbon-fiber shafts. Saratoga’s top speed is about 40 knots. It is based in Edmonds, Wash., north of Seattle.
In La Conner, Wash., Mavrik Marine built tour boats for the Pacific Whale Foundation in Wailuku, Hawaii, and Major Marine Tours of Anchorage, Alaska.
The 63-foot Ocean Guardian, designed by One2three Naval Architects of Australia, can hold 149 passengers, or 130 during snorkeling voyages. Amenities include a freshwater shower, large sundeck and stainless-steel barbecue grill.
The 91-foot Kenai Fjords 360 operates around Kenai Fjords National Park near Seward, Alaska. It can hold 150 people on three decks. Its cruising speed is 25 knots, with a 29-knot top speed.