The following is the text of a news release from Moran Iron Works:
(ONAWAY, Mich.) — A $3.8 million ferry, thought to be the first ever built in Michigan, will soon be under construction at Moran Iron Works in Onaway.
Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry is investing in the project both to provide customers with the latest in ferry travel and to help bolster the northeast Michigan economy.
“The idea of building a climate-controlled ferry for our customers right here in Michigan — instead of sending the work elsewhere — really appealed to us,” said Bill Shepler, CEO of Shepler’s. “As a third-generation family business, we’re focused on giving back to the region that has been so good to us.”
Shepler and Tom Moran, CEO and founder of Moran Iron Works, announced the project today at Moran’s fabrication facility, where pre-production processing and planning are already under way.
The 85-foot, all-aluminum ferry — to be christened Miss Margy, after Shepler’s mother — is scheduled to carry its first passengers in July 2015. It will include an air-conditioned cabin, as well as a ventilation system to remove interior condensation from windows, improving the view for passengers during inclement weather.
“We’re proud to work with Shepler’s on one of the most unique passenger vessels on the Great Lakes,” said Moran. “An all-aluminum hull, three of the most modern and powerful marine engines on the Great Lakes, along with the most advanced cabin comforts, make this project sophisticated and challenging.
“This provides thousands of man hours of work to northeast Michigan and demonstrates the Shepler family's commitment to providing jobs for our communities," Moran said.
Presque Isle County’s non-seasonally adjusted jobless rate was 7.9 percent in October, according to the Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information & Strategic Initiatives. Only six of the state’s 83 counties had worse rates.
The keel will be laid in mid-January and the hull completed over the next four months. The ferry will then be launched through Moran’s Port Calcite Collaborative, a deepwater port in nearby Rogers City, Mich., and transported to Shepler’s facility in Mackinaw City, where seating will be installed and painting done.
The 281-passenger ferry, Shepler’s largest, will have a top speed of about 40 mph. Shepler’s currently has a fleet of five passenger ferries and one cargo vessel.
Moran and Shepler’s have previously collaborated on modifications for two vessels, but this is their first ferry construction project. Ferries are usually constructed in shipbuilding meccas, such as Louisiana or Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
“But for this project, we liked the idea of watching it being built and having a say in how it was being built,” Shepler said. “This may be Moran’s first ferry, but they are so particular in what they do that there was no question in our minds that this was the right way to go. Moran is the epitome of doing it right.”
Miss Margy will be a K-class passenger vessel built in accordance with U.S. Coast Guard regulations. Moran is working with SeaCraft Design, a naval architecture and design firm based in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., for the vessel design.