Gladding-Hearn water taxis for New York City

The schedules for water taxis and ferries can get pretty complicated in New York, but when passengers start riding a pair of new aluminum catamaran water taxi/ferries now being built for New York Water Taxi at Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding Corp., there shouldn’t be any confusion.  

On the front of the 72’×27’ boats, above the bow doors, will be a destination sign, like ones on a bus. “This is tied into a system that knows where the boat is and what its next stop is,” said Peter Duclos, president of Somerset, Mass.-based Gladding-Hearn. 

The tracking and location system includes a GPS and automatically updates the sign. A digital audio message on the boat tells the passengers what the next stop will be. 

The same system is tied into signs at the docks to tell passengers when their boat will arrive.   

“If you look at the [paper]schedules, there are so many boats, so many stops, it’s almost impossible to deal with,” Duclos said. So the boat’s “owners just wanted people to forget about the schedule, show up and look at the sign,” he said. 

Duclos said the tracking and announcement equipment is built by Nextbus System, and he believes it is the first time it’s being used in the marine market. 

The boats themselves were designed by International Catamaran Designs, Sydney, Australia, and are described by Duclos as “simple, robust boats designed to operate in New York City, a tough environment.”  

They are also the smallest catamaran ferries that Gladding-Hearn has built. Still, they are Coast Guard certified to carry up to 149 passengers. 

In New York City, however, any boat carrying over 99 passengers is legally considered a ferry and is subject to different restrictions. 

As water taxis, the new boats will hold 99 passengers in the main cabin. The passengers load and unload at the bow. To eliminate ice buildup in the bow area so passengers don’t slip and fall, the forward deck has a heating system to prevent snow and ice from accumulating. 

The hull has been stiffened and the cooling system modified so the boats can make their way through light ice.  

For main power, the catamarans will have a pair of 800-hp Cummins QSK19-M diesels that are hooked up to Twin Disc MGX-5145SC Quick Shift marine gears that turn Brunton 5-bladed props. With 99 passengers aboard, the boats should hit 26 knots. 

The first boat will be delivered in mid-April and the second in mid-June.                                    — Michael Crowley 

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