Feature: Ferry Boat Construction Tops Passenger Vessel Industry

Monday, July 07, 2003

The passenger vessel industry continues to be mired in a construction malaise with high-speed passenger only ferries and more conventional passenger auto ferries the only bright spot. The epicenter of the passenger vessel ferry business is the New York City metro area where dozens of new ferries have been added to replace the PATH and other subway lines destroyed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Suddenly "the way to work" for thousands of commuters was severed.

Recent deliveries into the area include five 79-foot catamarans for NY Waterway. They are single deck, 149-foot passenger only ferries. The company also has purchased two 340-passsenger fast ferries from NY Fast Ferry.

The ramp up in New York City ferry services has not been without difficulties, however. For example, New York Fast Ferry bought an 86-foot high-speed catamaran from Austal USA, Mobile, Ala. Fast Ferry could not pay for the boat and although it was delivered to New York it never went into service and was returned to the builder.

New York Water Taxi, another commuter ferry service, will take delivery of three 54-passenger catamarans this summer from Derecktor Shipyard, Mamaroneck, NY. The all-aluminum catamaran has a top speed of 25 knots powered by a pair of Detroit Diesel Series 60 engines rated at 600 HP each.

NY Waterway has emerged as the clear leader in the New York City ferry business since 9/11/01. Their ridership has almost doubled from 33,000 commuters a day and they have added 10 routes. Revenues are expected to rise from $36 million in 2001 to $53 million in 2002.

All has not been a bed of roses for NY Waterway, however. In April, Federal authorities investigating fraud allegations relating to ferry operations financed by FEMA through the Port Authority subpoenaed certain records of the company.

The other major ferry project for New York City is three "Kennedy-Class" double-ended ferries with capacity for 4,000 persons and 35 vehicles. The Marinette Marine Corp., part of the Manitowoc Marine Group is building the ferries at their Marinette, Wisc shipyard with the first delivery June 2004 followed by the other two at four-month intervals.

One of the other "hot" ferry markets is Alaska where the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) is having two large vessels built. Derecktor Shipyards, Mamaroneck, NY. The first of two 235-foot high-speed ferries will go into service between Juneau and Sitka in early 2004. These vessels will be unique as they are the first high-speed passenger/vehicle vessels to be built in this country. Four 16-cylinder MTU engines driving four Kamewa 90S11 waterjets will propel the vessel at 35 knots.

These vessels will each hold 250 passengers plus crew and 35 vehicles.

Conrad Industries, Morgan City, La. is also building a passenger/vehicle ferry for AMHS. This is a 180-foot by 50-foot vessel that will hold 150 passengers and 18 vehicles. The Lituya will have a model bow and will be christened in November 2003 and delivered in March of 2004. Power is via a pair of Caterpillar 3512 engines driving conventional propellers.

The ferry will provide service between Metlakatla and Ketchikan on Alaska's Inside Passage.

Alaska Ship & Drydock (ASD) recently completed a major renovation project on the AMHS ferry Malaspina. Work included new lifesaving equipment, annual maintenance, tank cleaning and painting, new paint from keel to main deck, refurbishment of head and shower compartments of 73 passenger staterooms.

The $3.369 million project was one of six such projects ASD has done for AMHS over the last three years with a value of $29 million.

The State of North Carolina has a very active ferry-building program and took delivery of the 180-foot W. Stanford White from Orange Shipbuilding, Orange, Texas (now a part of Conrad Industries) in early June. They are building a second, identical ferry, Croatoan, at Steiner Shipyard Bayou La Batre, Ala. for October delivery.

Other significant ferryboat projects delivered in 2003 include a pair of 130-foot by 55-foot passenger ferries for the City of Savannah, Ga. built by Patti Shipyard, Pensacola, Fla.

All sorts of ferries have been built in 2003, but none so unique as the Colsac III, that pulls itself across the river via three cables layed across the Wisconsin River between Saulk and Columbia Counties. Actually the two outside cables stabilize the vessel while the center cable does the pulling.

All of the power the cable ferry needs is supplied by a single Cummins 6CT8.3 (M) diesel. The front of the engine powers a generator while a PTO on the rear of the engine powers a pair of hydraulic pumps…one for the ferry ramps and the other for propulsion.

The new 105-foot by 44-foot ferry has a capacity for 15-cars replacing a 1960 vintage vessel that could carry 12 cars. The Colsac III can also carry school buses and fire trucks that the former vessel could not carry.

The vessel was built by Basic Marine of Escanaba, Mich and designed by Timothy Graul, a naval architect from Sturgeon Bay, Wisc.

When it comes to building fast passenger ferries, no shipyard has been more successful than Gladding Hearn Shipbuilding; Somerset, Mass. Gladding Hearn has built over two dozen ferries designed by Incat Designs, Sydney, Australia.

Their latest success is the Grey Lady, a 144-foot catamaran delivered to Hyannis Harbor Tours, Hyannis, Mass providing year around passenger service between Hyannis and Nantucket Island. The new vessel will replace the smaller Grey Lady II. The 300-passenger vessel can travel at 36 knots powered by four Cummins KTA50M2 engines rated at 1800 HP at 1900 PM. The engine is coupled to Reintjes gearboxes driving Hamilton HM 651 waterjets. "The boat's top speed gives the operator a five knot margin on the schedule," said Peter Duclos, president of the shipyard.

For the last two decades there has been considerable talk about ferryboat service on the Great Lakes. Talk has been finally replaced by action in the form of the world's most powerful diesel catamaran to go into service this July on the Toronto-Rochester, NY route across Lake Ontario. The vessel is being built in Australia by Austal Ships for the Canadian-American Transportation Systems (CATS).

Four MTU engines will power the 86-meter vessel, each rated at 8.200 kW ( 11,256 hp) and will carry 774 passengers and a maximum of 236 cars or 10 trucks and less cars.

Austal Ships has built six other vessels of this type (called the Auto Express 86). It will be different in that it will have certain structural and design changes to meet the latest IMO .HSC Code 2000 requirements and will be able to work in limited ice conditions and it is the first of this series of Catamarans to use the MTU 20V 8000 M70 diesels. . The vessel is due in Rochester in July 2003.

Excursion/Dinner Boats

"I would characterize the business as steady," noted Andy Lebet, VP of DeJong & Lebet, Jacksonville, Fla.-based naval architects who are very active in the design and engineering of excursion/dinner vessels. . "It is certainly not at the volume of say 10 years ago, but we seem to be emerging from a dip in 2001-02 and the business is getting better," Lebet added.

Typical of the DeJong & Lebet designed dinner boats is Endless Dreams, a 135-foot by 32-foot vessel for Dream Cruises of Newport Beach, Calif. The vessel is certified under U. S. Subchapter K for 468 passengers and a crew of 32 on partially protected routes.

The three-deck vessel was built by Keith Marine, Palatka, Fla. Vessel design was by Rhea Design and Development, Inc. Costa Mesa, Fla. The design's engineering and naval architecture is by DeJong & Lebet. The vessel is designed to maximize main deck and upper deck space by placing the galley, freezers and rest rooms in the hull. The restrooms are very spacious and the galley and adjoining storeroom and freezer space is 1200 square feet. That allows the vessel to have a fully length dining room with a raised forward deck area for dining.

One deck up is the Entertainment Deck that can be setup for cocktails, weddings, dancing or additional dining. The third deck is open for sightseeing with the pilothouse forward. Power for the vessel is via a pair of Detroit Diesel Series 60 DDEC engines rated at 400 HP each. A Westmar electric dual prop bow thruster is included along with two 150KW John Deere gensets.

DeJong & Lebet also has done the engineering work for another K-boat this one for Pacific Avalon Yacht Charters. The vessel will be based in San Diego and offer corporate, wedding and private event charters.

Skipperliner, Inc., Lacrosse, Wisc., is building the boat, the first one in their new 57,000 square foot climate-controlled production hall.

The 300-passenger luxury yacht is 146.5 feet by 30 feet. '"Since the boat is being built to Subchapter K standards DeJong & Lebet did the final engineering and design based on the initial design and concept by Skipperliner," Lebet said.

Propulsion, bow thruster and electrical generation power is by Caterpillar. To be called the Majestic, the vessel is slated for a spring 2004 delivery.

When it comes to building large luxury dinner cruise vessels, no one has been more active in this market than Austal USA. The Mobile, Ala.- based subsidiary of Australia's Austal Ships, Austal USA has built two state-of-the-art dinner cruise vessels. The first, Biscayne Lady, an 111-foot catamaran was delivered to Island Queen Cruises in 2002 and now a 135 foot monohull Cloud 9 is in New York City owned by Cloud 9 of New York.

The luxury dining yacht will offer private dinner cruises for social and corporate groups on four-hour trips that incorporate the East River and part of the Hudson River. The Cloud 9 will specialize in the wedding market and have special facilities onboard such as an upper deck atrium to create a large open area and a small bridal suite is also on this deck.

With a constant 2.3 million weddings a year in boom and bust times, many vessel owners focus on this market and configure their vessels to make them attractive wedding and reception venues.

The vessel is built to 46 CFR Subchapter T regulations and is powered by two Cummins KT 38MO engines rated at 800 hp each. The second passenger vessel about to be delivered in 2003 by Austal USA is a 143-foot catamaran for Circle Line in New York City. The 143-foot high-speed passenger catamaran is certified for 600 passengers and a crew of 6. Propulsion is similar to what is found on many crew/supply boats…four Cummins KTA38M2 each developing 1200 hp with four Hamilton 571 waterjets. Service speed is 29 knots.

The Zephyr is due for July delivery.

In this report last year we noted that Shoreline Sightseeing in Chicago had taken delivery of a 300 passenger, 83-foot by 23-foot vessel for their growing sightseeing business in Chicago. The vessel was named Evening Star. Business must continue to improve as the company has recently added a nearly identical vessel to their fleet in May 2003. Once again the team of naval architect Timothy Graul and shipbuilder Bay Shipbuilding collaborated to produce the Bright Star. "The only real difference between the boats is that the Bright Star uses Caterpillar 3306 engines for propulsion and the pilothouse is set a little farther forward," said Todd Thayse, manager of contract services of Bay Shipbuilding.

Overnight Vessels

There is one major American -flagged overnight excursion boat under construction in the U.S. Nichols Bros; Freeland, Wash. has launched the 300-passenger Empress of the North, a 360-passenger sternwheeler. The vessel will accommodate 236 overnight guests and 84 crewmembers.

Owner of the vessel is American West Steamboat located in Seattle, Wash. In 1995, Nichols built the Queen of the West sternwheeler for American West. "The new vessel is a "stretched" version of the Queen of the West", said Bryan Nichols, VP of marketing for Nichols Bros.

The vessel will cruise Alaska's Inside passage during the summer season and the Columbia, Snake and Willamette Rivers beginning in September 2003. "The vessel is due to be completed in late July after a late June launching. Its first cruise will be September 10 kicking off the three year celebration of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial," Nichols added.

The $50 million plus vessel has a Title XI loan guarantee and was designed by Guido Perla & Associates, a naval architecture firm from Seattle, Wash.

The Empress of the North is an all-diesel electric vessel with four Caterpillar 3516B engines powering KATO generators each developing 1825 kW each. A Caterpillar powered 315 kW service generator acts as the "hotel set.".

A pair of 2,000 hp Z-drives propels the boat while a 1000 hp electric motor powers the paddlewheel and another 1000 hp electric motor powers a Schottel jet pump bow thruster. Service speed of the vessel is 14 knots.

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