NY Waterway scrambles after Coast Guard flags vessels

A wave of Coast Guard inspections over the weekend found deficiencies among NY Waterway’s ferry fleet, setting off a hustle by the private ferry operator to get boats back in service and charter replacements for the Monday morning commute.

While conducting routine inspections over the past two weeks, Coast Guard Sector New York found “multiple discrepancies” and decided to inspect all of NY Waterway’s 32 operational vessels, according to Coast Guard officials.

On Saturday alone, the inspectors checked out 21 vessels. In all they determined that 23 ferries were “operationally unfit,” with “damage or discrepancies significant enough to warrant suspension of operations.” By midday Sunday two of those vessels were re-inspected and back in service.

Another six boats were ready for the Monday morning commute, leaving 15 vessels sidelined as work continued, said NY Waterway spokesman Pat Smith. The inspectors did not find fault with the big, newer flagship vessels on NY Waterway’s lower harbor service from Belford, N.J.

All the company’s routes were operating normally in time for the Tuesday afternoon-evening commute, said Smith.

NY Waterway brought in four chartered vessels to help fill in, shuffled vessels between routes and apologized to riders for the disruption. Its regular morning shuttle across the Hudson River between Port Imperial, N.J., and Manhattan was reduced to one boat and riders experienced 10-minute additional delays, said Smith.

Smith said he did not have details on the Coast Guard’s inspection findings, and Coast Guard officials did not comment further.

Most of the impacts were felt in delays on the company’s routes between Jersey City and lower Manhattan.

Around 3 p.m. Monday, NY Waterway advised customers that the could expect all routes to be operating normally, except for the Liberty Harbor route from Jersey City that remained reduced from 15-minute to 30-minute intervals for the evening rush.

“The safety of the public is our top priority, and we expect our ferry operators to uphold the highest standards,” said Capt. Jason Tama, commander of Coast Guard Sector New York, in announcing the action Sunday. “We know many people rely on these ferries for daily commutes, and as these discrepancies are rectified, we will work with New York Waterway to return these ferries to operations as quickly as possible.”

About the author

Kirk Moore

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been a field editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for almost 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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