The covid-19 pandemic was particularly brutal on passenger vessel operators, many of whom experienced sharp declines in ridership as commuters stayed home and tourists sought activities away from other people.
But there are signs that the market is coming back to life as people return to work — and the morning commute. Although new passenger vessel deliveries were down sharply over the last year, the vessels that were completed tended to be modern, reliable and energy efficient.
Now, with the pandemic hopefully ebbing after a summer surge, tour boat and ferry operators are again hoping that tourists and commuters take advantage of the new and improved options for travel and leisure.
Enetai & Commander
Kitsap Transit of Bremerton, Wash., recently took delivery of the fast ferries Enetai and Commander.
The 140-by-37-foot aluminum catamaran ferries were built by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders (NBBB) of Freeland, Wash., and designed by BMT of Southampton, England. They can hold 255 passengers at full capacity.
“They are the ‘Audi A8’ of passenger ferries — fast, smooth and quiet,” Nick Zustiak, director of manufacturing at NBBB, said in a prepared statement. “Customer friendly, modern, reliable ferries are what the Pacific Northwest needs.”
Enetai, the lead vessel, entered service in spring 2021. Commander followed last summer. Propulsion consists of twin 3,435-hp MTU Tier IV 16V400M65L main engines paired with selective catalytic reduction aftertreatment to reduce emissions. The engines propel Kamewa waterjets through ZF Marine reduction gears.
The two ferries cruise at more than 38 knots with a full load of passengers, and their top speed exceeds 40 knots. Naiad supplied an active ride control system to improve rider comfort while underway.
Passenger amenities include 26 bicycles for commuters in pedestrian-friendly Seattle, fast wireless internet and ample charging stations for laptops and smartphones.
Elsewhere in Washington, Brix Marine of Port Angeles, Wash., delivered a 49-passenger ferry to the small community of Hat Island, Wash. The 45-by-18.4-foot vessel transports goods and people to and from the Port of Everett.
Another Holiday is built to Brix’s second-generation semi-displacement catamaran hull design. It is powered by twin Cummins QSL9 405-hp engines turning traditional propellers. Its economical cruising speed is between 14 and 17 knots. Twin bow thrusters improve slow-speed maneuvering.
The vessel can carry 43 passengers indoors, with four additional seats on the aft deck. Another Holiday has lockers and storage bins for luggage. Cushioned bench seats allow for additional storage. The ship also includes heating and a concession stand for passengers.
“She’s the most stable, seaworthy and safe boat I’ve had the pleasure to work on,” Capt. Shane Dunn of Hat Island said of the new ferry.
Liberty National I
Brix Marine also delivered the luxury water taxi Liberty National I to Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey. The aluminum vessel carries passengers between North Cove Marina in Lower Manhattan and the golf club’s private dock in New Jersey.
The vessel can carry 30 passengers and is powered by twin Yamaha 425-hp outboard engines. Electrical power comes from a Northern Lights generator. Garmin and Furuno supplied the navigation electronics. Liberty National I cruises at 25 knots.
Additionally, Brix is building an aluminum water taxi for Qathen Xwegus Management Corporation, the business arm of the Klahoose First Nation, located on Cortes Island, British Columbia.
The 32-foot catamaran, slated to be completed in Fall 2021, will have a heated cabin and capacity for 12 passengers. Propulsion will come from twin Volvo Penta D4 engines.
ACI Boats of Port Townsend, Wash., delivered the 49-passenger ferry Noble Eagle to Eagle Charters, which operates in Elfin Cove, Alaska.
The 50-foot aluminum vessel features a hydraulic beaching ramp, four 425-hp Yamaha outboards and twin-300-gallon fuel tanks. It cruises at a speed of 30 knots, with a top speed of 46 knots.
It is outfitted with Raymarine electronics and a Yamaha Helm Master joystick steering system to help the Noble Eagle maneuver through Alaskan waters.
NYC Ferry took delivery of Time Traveler, an 85-foot ferry designed by Incat Crowther and built by Metal Shark. It could be the last NYC Ferry built by the Louisiana shipyard for some time.
The 150-passenger high-speed catamaran is the 12th vessel of its size Metal Shark built for the ferry system, and the 22nd overall. The other 10 ferries are 97 feet long with seating for 350 people.
“We are thrilled with the operations and production that the Metal Shark team has been able to deliver for NYC Ferry throughout the past four years by working together through the design process, regulatory changes, hurricanes, pandemics and more,” said Junior Volpe, director of special projects for Hornblower Group, which operates the NYC Ferry system.
Production on the new ferry class started in mid-2016. Sunset Crossing, built by Metal Shark, carried the first load of paying customers on the new NYC Ferry system in May 2017. Subsequent orders fueled an unprecedented period of construction for the builder, and might have continued but for the pandemic and its effects on commuting.
“From our initial six on-time deliveries in 2017 to the multiple additional orders that followed, our relationship with this client is something we are very proud of,” said Carl Wegener, Metal Shark’s vice president of commercial sales. “It is unfortunate that current conditions in the passenger vessel market caused this streak to end; however, we are confident that we will be teaming again in the future.”
RTA 1 & RTA 2
Two other Metal Shark ferries, RTA 1 and RTA 2, entered service for the Regional Transit Authority in New Orleans after a lengthy local process. The 105-foot ferries carry passengers between Canal Street, adjacent to the French Quarter, and Algiers Point, across the Mississippi River.
BMT Group designed the aluminum catamarans, which are powered by twin 715-hp Caterpillar C18 Tier 3 diesel engines paired with Twin Disc reduction gears. Electrical power comes from two Kohler generators.
The ferries had been moored for nearly two years waiting for inspection certificates from the U.S. Coast Guard. They replace the 41-year-old Col. Frank X. Armiger, which now operates in a backup role.
Capt. Richard G. Spear
The Maine Department of Transportation is close to taking delivery of the passenger-vehicle ferry Capt. Richard G. Spear from Washburn and Doughty Associates in East Boothbay, Maine.
Designed by Gilbert Associates of Braintree, Mass., the 154-by-38-foot steel ferry can hold 250 passengers and up to 23 vehicles. It is driven by twin 750-hp Caterpillar C32 engines turning Sound propellers through Twin Disc reduction gears. Electrical power comes from three John Deere generators, while a fourth drives an electric Schottel bow thruster.
“The importance of building Maine State Ferry Service vessels in the state, by Maine residents, should not be overlooked,” Washburn and Doughty President Katie Doughty Maddox said. “The fact that the state need look no further than East Boothbay for new vessel construction is a boon to the state and to the livelihood of many Maine families.”
The vessel is named for Maine native Richard Spear. He graduated from Maine Maritime Academy, served in the U.S. merchant marine during World War II, and was the first employee of the Maine State Ferry Service. He was soon promoted to manager, and he held that position until his retirement in 1989.
Spirit of Matushka
All American Marine of Bellingham, Wash., (AAM) delivered Spirit of Matushka to Alaska-based Major Marine Tours.
The 150-passenger hydrofoil-assisted catamaran operates from Seward, Alaska, and will carry passengers into Kenai Fjords National Park. Teknicraft Design developed plans for the 87-by-32-foot aluminum vessel. The propulsion package includes four HamiltonJet HM422 waterjets powered by four 788-hp Scania DI16 082 engines.
For passengers, the ride is spacious and comfortable, featuring both interior and exterior seating with electrical outlets, wheelchair access and Beurteaux seats, along with stadium-style viewing area for observing wildlife and scenery.
The 302-foot cruise ship American Melody was delivered to American Cruise Lines in August 2021.The ship, built by Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Md., departed on its maiden voyage down the Mississippi River on Aug. 27 and will continue operating until December.
The vessel can accommodate 175 passengers and features atriums, indoor and outdoor lounges, dining rooms, cafés and open-air skywalks. Two additional boats from Chesapeake Shipbuilding, American Symphony and American Serenade, are set to be delivered to American Cruise Lines next year.