Six new NYC ferries idled after inspectors find corrosion, leaks


Hornblower has removed six NYC Ferry vessels from service after U.S. Coast Guard inspectors found corrosion and leaks on at least three of the recently delivered boats and smaller leaks on two others.

Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy said pitting corrosion was discovered below the waterline on three of the aluminum high-speed catamarans. As of early December, all three were in dry dock at repair facilities around New York City.

Two other ferries with smaller hull leaks are still in the water awaiting dry-dock repairs, and a sixth vessel was removed from service as a precaution. All of the vessels were built by Metal Shark of Jeanerette, La., and delivered in 2017.

“The first three were found to have heavy pitting in the hull,” Conroy told Professional Mariner. “Our experienced marine investigators believe this was caused by electrolysis. That happens when different metals interact with each other as well as the electronics on board the vessel.”

Conroy said that while pitting routinely occurs, “the problem is the heavy pitting our marine inspectors saw is not normal for this early in a vessel’s life.”

Inspectors found the corrosion and leaks on the 100 Series of ferries built by Metal Shark. Subsequent inspections of vessels in the 200 Series built by Horizon Shipbuilding of Bayou La Batre, Ala., for NYC Ferry revealed no problems. The affected vessels are 85 feet long and can carry 150 passengers.

A Metal Shark spokesman did not respond to requests for comment. Hornblower, the San Francisco-based company that operates NYC Ferry, also did not respond to a request for comment.

Authorities discovered the pitting on Happy Hauler in October when it was taken out of service for mechanical issues. Problems with Great Eagle and Owl’s Head were discovered in mid-November.

The other affected ferries are Waves of Wonder, Sunset Crossing and a sixth unidentified vessel. Happy Hauler and Great Eagle were undergoing repairs in December at a shipyard in Nyack, N.Y., while Owl’s Head was dry-docked at a facility in Tuckahoe, N.J. Conroy said pitted hull sections will be replaced with new metal.

Hornblower has hired an outside company to investigate the cause of the corrosion. Meanwhile, keel coolers on several of the corroding ferries have been removed and will be re-installed under Coast Guard supervision. It wasn’t clear if the keel cooler issue was related to the hull damage.

Stephanie Baez, a spokeswoman for the New York City Economic Development Corp., which oversees the ferry project, said Hornblower is responsible for the repairs. Hornblower has called on replacement vessels and ferry service has not been impacted.

City officials and Hornblower consider the high-profile ferry project a success, noting strong rider demand for the service. But there have been setbacks, most notably Horizon’s bankruptcy filing in October before delivering all 13 ferries it promised. In court documents, the shipyard said it tried unsuccessfully to renegotiate its contract with Hornblower to avoid losing money.

In September, Metal Shark announced it would build five more ferries for Hornblower’s New York service, four of which can hold 350 people. There was no indication the recent hull problems would affect that agreement.

By Professional Mariner Staff