NYC ferries in for keel cooler repair; backup boat disabled again

Misaligned keel coolers are requiring NYC Ferry to haul six of its new boats for repair, a move operators said was needed to prevent galvanic corrosion of the aluminum hulls.

With more of those boats headed for the yard, a replacement vessel – the former San Francisco Bay ferry Zelinskystruck a submerged piling near the Pier 11 terminal in Manhattan late Monday and had to be evacuated by police. It was a second bout of hard luck for the 30-year old, 86.4’x31.2’x7’ fast catamaran, which was laid up for months after striking a submerged object back in April.

After a very successful first spring and summer season, the seasonal slowdown into fall commuter patterns afforded the opportunity to take three of the 85’x29’ Incat Crowther catamarans built by Metal Shark, Franklin, La., out of service starting in mid-October.

Passengers are evacuated from the grounded ferry Zelinsky in New York. NYPD photo.

Passengers are evacuated from the grounded ferry Zelinsky in New York. NYPD photo.

“We caught it early, and it’s being fixed at no cost to the city,” officials of the New York Economic Development Corporation wrote in a posting to the agency’s Twitter social media account.

The NYEDC put out its side of the story hours after the New York Post reported that five boats were out of service with corrosion damage. The city’s $345 million public ferry project is a signature project of Mayor Bill de Blasio, and had been marked by skepticism among the mayor’s political critics and some in the region’s private ferry industry.

The project has the ambition to stand up a fleet of 20 vessels on six routes by the end of 2018, and within three months of its May 2017 startup, the ferry service passed one million riders. The system is overseen by the NYEDC and operated under contract by HNY Ferry Fleet LLC, a subsidiary of San Francisco-based Hornblower Cruises and Events.

Late Monday Hornblower officials said the additional three Metal Shark-built boats were likewise up for inspection and repairs.

“Hornblower has been working closely with our partners at the U.S. Coast Guard and the shipyard where these vessels were built, which were six total, to address the issues with the keel coolers that were discovered during our inspections,” the company said.

“Part of our approved U.S. Coast Guard repair plan includes not only making the repairs to these three vessels, but also bringing in the other three vessels built by this company and making any necessary repairs to them as well. This will help Hornblower head off this issue as part of our commitment to promoting safe and reliable waterborne transportation.”

Metal Shark was selected earlier this year to build additional ferries after Horizon Shipbuilding Inc., Bayou La Batre, Ala., began having financial problems as a result of building most of the fleet.

Those boats were delivered, but Horizon lost so much money on the contract that it filed for bankruptcy in late October, leaving subcontractors unpaid.

As the NYC Ferry service was readying for a May 1 launch, Hornblower in late April obtained a new certificate of inspection for the Zelinsky, a 400-passenger vessel formerly operated by the Blue & Gold Fleet in San Francisco.

But just a day later, the Zelinsky with five crewmembers aboard struck a submerged object near Coney Island, sustaining damage to its port lazarette. After repairs at North River Shipyard on the Hudson River in Upper Nyack, N.Y., the Zelinsky was back in action this fall doing ferry and charter work.

While not a official NYC Ferry and crew, the boat was departing on the popular Wall Street to Rockaway run Monday when it got stuck just off Pier 11 at 5:15 p.m. Monday, according to police and EDC officials.

Passengers called 911, and police evacuated 114 riders while the Coast Guard coordinated the rescue and dewatered the vessel. Initially described in early reports as a sandbar, the object may have been a submerged piling, and divers found it left two small holes in a hull.

At mid-morning Tuesday, the Zelinsky was underway and headed north up the Hudson River toward Upper Nyack, according to the AIS vessel tracking service MarineTraffic.


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.


  1. Avatar

    Thank you for your informative report. I remember that once over the summer, my wife and I were driving past the Beach 108th Street ferry landing in Rockaway – around the time when NYC Ferry was experiencing its overcrowding problems, with crowds coming out to the beach from Manhattan MUCH GREATER than any of the officials overseeing the service had anticipated — and seeing what we thought was a very strange-looking boat — it did not look like the new NYC Ferry boats, nor was it one of the familiar large Seastreak catamaran boats which were part of the fleet that provided ferry transport to and from Rockaway between Nov. 12, 2012 and Oct. 31, 2014, when the service was unfortunately discontinued. It turns out that it was the Zalensky. Oddly, we did not see it again after that, even though we are regular ferry riders — and NYC Ferry continued to have overcrowding issues for much of the summer.

    Don’t the ferry captains have nautical charts of local waters that list water depth and underwater obstructions such as the one the Zalensky struck yesterday? And is there any kind of sonar-like navigation equipment on board these boats to detect such obstructions?

    Once again, thanks for the report

  2. Avatar

    Karma is a b—-. Nobody should have any pity for these people. I got screwed out of $800K building the Horizon ferries. Horizon is at the WorkBoat show just going about business as usual. My booth is empty because I cannot afford to even outfit the booth. Karma will get Horizon and Hornblower.

  3. Avatar

    Stay away from Metal Shark boats ! There service after the sale sucks . The bow sprays water onto the front decks have to run windshield wipers on a clear day to see. The doors allow water to enter the cabin . The outlay and the amount of space they give to you to work in the engine room is horrible. Steering system is horrible and engines steady alarm due to lack of engine room air flow . The boats may look good but are not worker friendly . We have one and the floor is already rotting due to water entering from the outside of the boat . There answer was a crew member must have caused it ha ! When you call them after the sale they give you the run around we have one that’s 2 years old nothing but Trouble .

    • Avatar

      Metal Shark is a well known company. They only follow the design plans they are given.
      I don’t think you can blame them for everything. The owners are the ones that agree on the drawings … Maybe the engineers should get input from the working man.

  4. Avatar

    I worked for one of the companies that built these boats and I can tell you the tax payers are the ones who got short changed. Lack of quality control and concern for delivering a safe vessel was evident on a daily basis. It was a team effort between the builder, Coast Guard
    and Hornblower.

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