US Watercraft, Hubert, N.C., announced today that the aluminum passenger ferry Ocracoke Express has received its Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection and will begin carrying passengers to Ocracoke Island for the North Carolina Department of Transportation on May 17.

The state-owned 92'x26' Ocracoke Express is a catamaran-style passenger ferry featuring 96 interior seats, an upper deck with 26 additional seats, two wheelchair tie-downs, 16 bicycle racks, and a concession area. It will carry passengers from Hatteras, N.C., to Silver Lake Harbor in Ocracoke Village and back — a trip of approximately 70 minutes each way.

US Watercraft, the commercial boatbuilding division of Waterline Systems, took over construction of the aluminum ferry midway through the project after the original builder closed its doors. Working closely with Bruce Marek, principal of Marek Yacht Design, Wilmington, N.C., construction was completed by US Watercraft’s team at its waterfront facility in Hubert. Elliott Bay Design Group handled the vessel design and systems and BMT/Nigel Gee was responsible for the boat’s hull lines and structure.

Main propulsion comes from four Caterpillar C18 diesel engines, producing 803 hp at 2,100 rpm each. The Cats connect to Thrustmaster Doen DJ170-hp waterjets through ZF 665-1 marine gears, with 182:1 reduction ratios. The waterjets have jet mounted hydraulics and controls. The propulsion package gives the new ferry a full load running speed of 25.5 knots and a full load top speed of 28 knots.

Capacities include 2,200 gals. of fuel and 200 gals. potable water.

The Ocracoke Express features a three-person crew, 4' draft, and Thrustmaster ESC200 controls. Lightship tonnage is 64.8 LT and full load tonnage is 88.0 LT.

“This launch represents a tremendous achievement by our experienced team,” Randy Borges, managing director of Waterline Systems, said in a statement announcing the delivery. “Everyone involved was extremely professional and quickly overcame the challenges of picking up a complicated project midstream. With a lot of enthusiasm and energy we made it our own, and we’re proud to deliver the high build quality expected by the NCDOT and its passengers.”

The vessel will be christened May 16 in a formal celebration that also kicks off the N.C. Ferry System's 75th Anniversary celebration.


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.