Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, Freeland, Wash., has been awarded a contract to build two new high-speed passenger-only ferries for Kitsap Transit with an option for a third.

Kitsap Transit, Bremerton, Wash., launched a new fast-ferry service in July 2017 between Bremerton and downtown Seattle with plans to add service connecting Kingston and Southworth to Seattle. Earlier this year, Kitsap Transit purchased the Finest, a 350-passenger high-speed catamaran from NY Waterway and shipped it to Puget Sound. Following a refurbishment at Nichols, the Finest started its inaugural run between Kingston and downtown Seattle the day after Thanksgiving on the busiest shopping day of the year. The new service has opened up a completely new marine highway between downtown Seattle and Kingston.

The new passenger-only ferries that Nichols Brothers will build will support Kitsap’s plans to further expand the Kingston service and add service to Southworth in 2020.

The two 140’x37’x12’ aluminum high-speed catamarans will be built to Subchapter K regulations and will each carry 250 passengers and 26 bicycles. The catamarans were designed by BMT Nigel Gee to optimize for loading and unloading of passengers as well as in-route time. The vessels can load passengers and bikes through a two-station loading area on the sides, or alternatively through divided passenger/bike lanes from the bow. The vessels will have a maximum speed of 37 knots and cruise speed of 35 knots at full load.

The ferries will be among the first vessels to feature a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) exhaust aftertreatment system powered by two MTU Tier IV 16V400M65L main engines each putting out 3,435 hp at 1,800 rpm. Through ZF 9050 gears, the engines will turn Kamewa S71-4 waterjets, reaching 35 knots at full load. Additionally an active ride control is being installed, supplied by Naiad. The interceptor system will ensure a smooth, comfortable ride.

Particular attention has been paid to passenger comfort. An air conditioning system will keep the passenger cabin cool in the summer and warm in the winter. In addition, the vessels are designed to reduce cabin noise by minimizing the overlap of the passenger and engine compartments and utilizing the latest thinking in Coast Guard-approved noise attenuation materials.

“We really appreciate the opportunity to work with Kitsap Transit on the development and implementation of this new transportation system networking the Olympic Peninsula with Seattle,” said Gavin Higgins, Nichols Brothers’ CEO. “Using Puget Sound as a water highway to reduce the Seattle metro traffic congestion and expand housing market with very reasonable travel times is a great model for the other counties around Seattle to follow.”

NBBB has built over 50 high-speed catamarans and pioneered the design and development of the high speed passenger ferries in the early 1980s. In addition to the two Kitsap ferries, Nichols is building a 105’ hybrid escort tug for Baydelta Maritime and four 105’ escort tugs for Foss Maritime.

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.