NYC Ferry grounds, passengers evacuated

Another NYC Ferry vessel is out of action after grounding near Rockaway Inlet Wednesday evening.

The 82’x26’ Flyer was at the North River Shipyard, Upper Nyack, N.Y., for inspection after the incident. New York City police and fire units took 24 people off the stranded vessel during a tedious four-hour evacuation in frigid temperatures.

The Flyer had departed the Rockaway landing with 27 passengers and crew at 5:15 p.m., bound for Pier 11 at Wall Street, according to the Coast Guard. About 15 minutes later the vessel went hard aground on a sandbar.

Despite the impact no serious injuries were reported, and the captain initially tried to back the Flyer into the Coney Island channel. But the ferry was immobilized, and with shoal water all around the Coast Guard and city responders could not bring rescue craft alongside.

With heat out on the boat and 20-degree air temperatures, police and fire officials organized a transfer using a rigid hull inflatable boat to get passengers off and across the shallows to larger boats and taken ashore.

New York City police officers with an inflatable boat used to evacuate passengers from a grounded ferry Dec. 27, 2017. NYPD photo.

New York City police officers with an inflatable boat used to evacuate passengers from a grounded ferry Dec. 27, 2017. NYPD photo.

“It was difficult because they had to climb down a ladder, a 12’ straight ladder down the back of the ferry onto our boat and then transferred onto several different boats. So a very slow tedious, time-consuming operation,” fire department Chief John Esposito told reporters.

The Flyer was later towed off the sandbar, and headed up the Hudson River Thursday morning to the shipyard, according to the AIS vessel tracking service MarineTraffic.

It was the second grounding incident in a month on the popular Wall Street-Rockaway route, the first one in the NYC Ferry public system to open last May and a big part of the venture’s early success.

In the Nov. 27 incident, the 30-year old, 86.4’x31.2’x7’ fast catamaran Zelinsky, a former San Francisco Bay ferry now operated by Hornblower Cruises & Events’ New York operation, was filling in on an NYC Ferry run when it got stuck on an underwater obstruction near Pier 11.

Coast Guard, police and fire units took about 100 people safely off in that case. Officials with the city Economic Development Corporation and the ferry system operator, Hornblower subsidiary HNY Ferry Fleet LLC, said the master at the time was not a regular captain on that route, experienced with the terminal approaches.

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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