Nichols Brothers Boat Builders (Ice Flow LLC) has delivered the second of two 255-passenger ferries to Kitsap Transit, Bremerton, Wash.

Like the first-in-class-vessel Enetai, the Commander outperformed design expectations during vessel trials, delivering to Kitsap Transit a lighter, faster, and smoother riding vessel, Nichols Brothers (NBBB) said.

“They are the ‘Audi A8’ of passenger ferries — fast, smooth and quiet,” Nick Zustiak, director of manufacturing at Nichols Brothers, said in a statement. “Customer friendly, modern, reliable ferries is what the Pacific Northwest needs, and Kitsap Transit is making it happen. Although the builds of the Enetai and Commander were challenging during the pandemic, the team pulled together and delivered high-quality vessels."

Kitsap Transit awarded a design and construction contract to Nichols Brothers Boat Builders with BMT of Southampton, UK, for vessel design.

The Commander and Enetai, are 140'x37'x12' aluminum high-speed catamarans built to Subchapter K regulations. According to Nichols, the new vessels are among the first ferries to feature a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) exhaust aftertreatment system powered by two MTU Tier IV 16V400M65L main engines. Each engine puts out 3,435 hp at 1,800 rpm, through ZF 9050 gears turning Kamewa S71-4 waterjets. The package enables the ferries to hit 38 knots at full load.

Kitsap Transit’s design requirements included a bow-loading configuration allowing the vessels to utilize Washington State Ferries (WSF) existing Southworth car ferry dock for loading and unloading of passengers. With speed requirements of a minimum 35-knot cruising speed, it allows for efficient route scheduling not to interfere with WSF’s existing schedule. Plus, passenger comfort and amenities are a priority for Kitsap Transit and their passengers.

During vessel trials the Commander and the Enetai exceeded 40 knots, bettering the speed expectations by 3-knots bringing up the vessels’ cruising speed to 38 knots at full load. The Naiad active ride control system ensured a smooth comfortable ride at the high-speed.

The vessels display nimble maneuverability and superior responsiveness owing to its latest generation of waterjet drives and design emphasis on lightweight construction, Nichols Brothers officials said.

In addition to the 255-passenger capacity, the vessel accommodates 26 bicycles. Onboard amenities include an advanced heating and air conditioning system that will keep passenger areas warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Seats and tables are outfitted with outlets and USB ports for laptop and phone charging, and the vessel is equipped with high-speed Wi-Fi connectivity.

“The two Kitsap Transit ferries were built during the global Covid-19 pandemic, forcing NBBB to significantly rearrange production to allow for safety protocols required to protect our workforce. Kitsap Transit was incredible to work with showing encouragement toward the safety of our people and operations,” said Gavin Higgins, NBBB CEO. “As the region returns to normalcy, it is exciting and rewarding to see two new ferries built by NBBB operating right here in the pacific northwest.”