The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) sets the standards passenger vessels, such as the Staten Island Ferry, must meet and then inspects the vessels regularly to ensure that they are in compliance. For large passenger vessels, the Coast Guard conducts four safety inspections each year. These inspections, at a minimum, include examination of the vessel structure, lifesaving equipment, machinery installation, navigation equipment, personnel, and vessel security. The Coast Guard also requires the vessels to be dry docked and internally inspected twice in a five year period.
If a passenger vessel passes inspection, it is certified as being fit for operation, in regards to all systems as well as crew procedures for both routine and emergency operations.
New York City’s Department of Transportation operates the Staten Island Ferry. This organization has been recognized as having an aggressive, proactive safety program, known as a Safety Management System (SMS). An SMS is an organized system planned and implemented by ship owners to ensure the safety of the ship and the marine environment.
By regulation, the owner, operators, master (captain), and person in charge are all responsible for the safe operation of the vessel. The Staten Island Ferries have had a voluntary SMS in place since October 2005.
The Staten Island Ferries have exceeded expectations in reporting of accidents, known as marine casualties, however minor. Their cooperation with Coast Guard investigations of any mishap, whether major or minor, has been immediate and forthcoming. The Coast Guard investigates machinery failures or equipment malfunctions when they materially and adversely affect the vessel’s fitness for service or route.
There are three Molinari class vessels. Two are in service and were recently inspected. The third has had an equipment refit and is awaiting certification before it can resume operations.
The Molinari vessels have had reportable accidents. The majority of the reports received from the Staten Island Ferries are for minor injuries such as slips, trips or falls having nothing to do with any mechanical problem. In addition, since 2003 the Coast Guard investigated 127 marine casualties on Molinari-class vessels which involved machinery and resulted in any reduction of either steering or propulsion capability. This means that a reportable accident occurred less than once a month on these vessels during the time referenced.
In an average year, Staten Island Ferries conduct 35,000 trips. In a 10-year period of time, that’s 350,000 trips and 200 million passengers.