Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry and Moran Iron Works are joining forces a second time to build a $4 million 84'x20'3", 210-passenger aluminum ferry in Northeast Michigan.

Shepler and Tom Moran, CEO and founder of Moran Iron Works, announced the project at a recent news conference in Moran’s fabrication center, where Shepler cut the first piece of metal for the new ferry. Designed with an 8' draft by Seacraft Design, the ferry is scheduled to carry its first passengers in the summer of 2020.

“Moran Iron Works is all in on fulfilling Shepler’s commitment to build in Michigan, by Michigan, for Michigan,” Moran said. “The work being done here will support 40 local families and result in one of the finest vessels plying the straits today.”

Instead of propellers, the new ferry will have four HM461 jet drives, supplied by HamiltonJet, connected to Yanmar AYEM-ET Tier 3 main engines, producing 803 hp at 1,800 rpm each, through Twin Disc MGX-5146SC marine gears with 1.33:1 reduction ratios. HamiltonJet will also take care of the boat's steering and controls needs. The propulsion package will give the boat a running speed of 30 knots. The new boat will be the first fast-ferry application of the company’s jets in the U.S. Great Lakes, and the first application of its new Advanced Vessel Control System in the U.S., the statement said.

The new passenger boat will be wheelchair accessible and have a big aft deck for luggage, bikes and strollers. It will also include enhanced air conditioning and heating capabilities to keep passengers comfortable in all weather conditions.

Construction will require some 13,000 manhours on the shop floor over the next several months. Capacities will include 900 gals. of fuel and a cargo deck that will measure 20'x18'. The electronics suite will include Furuno 1935 radar and GP33 GPS and Sitex Class A AIS.

This fall the 60-ton ferry will be trailered to Moran Iron’s Port Calcite Collaborative, a deepwater port in nearby Rogers City. The move will take place along a high-wire transport corridor running primarily along the M-68 highway. It will then launch in Lake Huron and be sailed in spring 2020 to Shepler’s facility in Mackinaw City, where it will be detailed in preparation for its inaugural run next summer.

Moran Iron Works has done routine repairs as well as extensive modifications on four Shepler vessels, and the current newbuild is its second ferry constructed for the company.

Moran’s first ferry built for Shepler is the $3.8 million, 281-passenger Miss Margy, launched in 2015. Miss Margy is Shepler’s largest ferry and considered the pride of Shepler’s fleet. “Shepler’s is always working to maintain its position as Michigan’s premier ferry service to the state’s premier tourist destination,” Shepler said. “This new boat is another down payment on that commitment.”


Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.