The first of two new all-aluminum catamaran fast ferries entered service in New York Harbor, marking a major scale-up in speed and style for the region’s growing passenger service sector.

The 109’x31’x6’ Molly Pitcher, built for NY Waterway, Weehawken, N.J., by Yank Marine, Tuckahoe, NJ, carried her first paying passengers with four trips Friday between Manhattan and Belford, NJ. A sister ship, the Betsey Ross, is under construction with delivery expected near the end of this year.09.22.15 MollyPitcherNY Waterway's Molly Pitcher. Kirk Moore photo.

With room for 350 passengers in oversized high back seats and total capacity of 400 riders plus up to 10 crew, the boats represent a more than $10 million investment by NY Waterway president and founder Arthur E. Imperatore, who in 1986 began a revival of private-sector passenger ferry service between New York and New Jersey.

Propelled by a pair of Tier III compliant Caterpillar 3512C engines, rated at 2,367 hp at 1,800 rpm, the boat was designed by LeMole Naval Architecture to have a service speed between 28 knots and 30 knots.

On Tuesday, NY Waterway hosted local news media on the boat’s scheduled morning routes, and it performed as advertised. Cruising under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and over the Bay Ridge Flats, Molly Pitcher made a steady 29.6 knots at 1,670 rpm.

“It actually exceeded our speed expectations,” said Alan Warren, vice president for operations with NY Waterway. “We’re refining the propellers and expect we’ll even get a little more.”

With 37 vessels on track to make 9 million passenger trips this year, the company has the biggest fleet in the harbor and counts a number of waterjet boats among its numbers. But the new boats are straight-shaft propellers, partially recessed in tunnels to gain the 6’ draft handy for maneuvering the shallows near Belford.

“We’re moving from waterjets to propellers. We think that will give us a 25% fuel savings,” Warren said.

For the interior of the two-deck cabin, the company turned to Jeanine Bequette of Directions in Design, St. Louis, Mo., for an Art Deco theme evoking New York City of the 1920s and ‘30s – with modern technology. The cabin featured LED lighting throughout, flat screen television and public wifi.

“We wanted it open and airy and bright, something pleasant to greet people,” Warren said.

09.22.15 MPitcher FurunoMolly Pitcher’s bridge has an integrated Furuno display that includes, radar, GPS and charts, and FLIR thermal imaging. Kirk Moore photo.For her operators, Molly Pitcher has been a pleasure to run. At the helm are Jastram Digital electric over hydraulic controls, with a dampening effect on shifting to gently ease in and out of terminal slips. An integrated Furuno electronics suite includes a center display that shows radar, GPS and chart information, and FLIR thermal imaging.

“It tracks very steady,” said Capt. Mike Kann. On a morning with a stiff northeast breeze and chop, there was no pounding and little spray. One reason for that is transom tabs that compensate for roll and can be set to adjust the bow attitude, Kann said.

“I like it,” Kann said. “I think the next one is going to be even better, with little improvements here and there.”