As New York City prepares to launch an ambitious new ferry service linking neighborhoods across the metropolis by water, a pair of Gulf shipyards are operating on an aggressive schedule to deliver new vessels for the routes.
For Metal Shark Boats, currently building six new 85'4"x26'3"x11'6" aluminum catamaran ferries for New York’s Citywide Ferry Service, that schedule is a welcome challenge. Designed by Incat Crowther, the new high-speed passenger boats will service six routes and 10 new ferry landings. San Francisco-based Hornblower Cruises & Events subsidiary HNY Ferry Fleet LLC will act as operator of the new citywide service.
Though no specific delivery dates have been released, some of the ferries will be delivered in 2017 as Phase I of the new routes is planned for summer 2017. An unspecified number of boats will be delivered in 2018. (Horizon Shipbuilding, Bayou La Batre, Ala., is building eight ferries to the same design for the same project.)
“We’re use to operating under the gun. We have a very aggressive schedule for the Coast Guard boats and the Navy boats we build at our Jeanerette (La.) yard,” Josh Stickles, Metal Shark’s director of marketing, said during an interview at the Franklin yard yesterday. “This is the same type of thing in a larger application.”
Carl Wegener, Metal Shark’s director of commercial sales, said, “We do a lot of in-house design. We take the Incat design and bring it to a new level.”
About three years ago, Metal Shark opened the Franklin yard in an effort to attract contracts for larger vessels like the New York ferries. “We had existing customers who wanted bigger boats,” said Wegener, “but we had to attract other contracts like this one to make it worthwhile. Our plans have really gone well for us. Things have fallen into place nicely.”
To accommodate increased production needs, Metal Shark is building a fully-enclosed 200'x80' large vessel assembly building that can handle boats up to 180'. In addition, a new stand-alone office building will provide more than 4,000 sq. ft. of space for the yard’s executive, engineering, project management, and administrative personnel. Metal Shark's team will be growing along with its physical footprint — Stickles said that employment at the Franklin facility would jump from 65 workers to 100 by the second quarter of 2017. Both new buildings are expected to be complete and operational on the same schedule.
A new 150'x80' final assembly tent was built in October and is now fully operational. Additionally, a new 160-ton marine lift transporter will arrive in January to facilitate the movement of boats around the 25-acre yard. Both were funded in part by a Department of Transportation Maritime Administration Small Shipyard grant awarded in April 2016. “We built the tent with some of the money we got from the grant,” Stickles said as he stood on the bow of the yard’s first ferry, which is currently under the tent. “It’s worked out great.”
In addition to carrying 149 passengers (three crew), the new ferries will be equipped with Wi-Fi, and feature concessions and space for bikes, strollers and wheelchairs. The vessels will be ADA and LL68 compliant.
Main propulsion for the ferries will come from twin Baudouin 6M26.3, Tier 3 diesel engines producing 815 hp at 2,100 rpm each. The mains will connect to 5-bladed, NiBrAl, 38″ Michigan Wheel propellers through ZF 2050 marine gears with 2.519:1 reduction ratios. (The Rockaway wheels will measure 42″.) The propulsion packages will give the ferries a running speed of 25 knots. “The New York ferry building process has gone pretty smoothly so far,” said Wegener. “People who build boats here in Louisiana have a lot of pride in what they do. You can see it in these boats.”
Other newbuild projects at the Franklin yard include a 45' pilot boat for a Caribbean operator, a multi-boat Navy contract for 50 high-speed vessels, a 64' survey boat for the Corps of Engineers, a 70' supply boat for a Northeast operator, and a 158' Incat Crowther-designed catamaran for a private client.
“With all our different projects, we’ve been able to showcase our expertise on a global stage,” said Wegener.