VT Halter Marine Inc. recently launched the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) newest ferry, the Powhatan. The boat will be delivered this Fall.

In November 2016, Pascagoula, Miss.-based VT Halter was awarded the contract for the design, construction and delivery of the new 499-passenger/70-vehicle, 270'x65'x15' ferry that will replace the current vessel, the Virginia, which was built in 1936. The Virginia, built to accommodate 1930s-era vehicles, has narrower parking lanes and a 12-ton limit. It is only able to transport 25 cars on each pass.

The Powhatan is part of Virginia’s six-year improvement plan for 2013-2018, with $2.5 million allocated for design and $25 million for construction. The ferry will be part of the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry system, which transports approximately 936,000 vehicles annually and is the only 24-hour, state-run ferry in Virginia.

The Powhatan is capable of holding up to 70 passenger vehicles, or 14 trucks/buses, and carrying up to 499 passengers, of which 150 can be accommodated in the passenger cabin on the upper deck.

The Powhatan is designed and certified according to ABS Rules for Building and Classing Steel Vessels for Service on Rivers and Intracoastal Waterways, US 46 CFR, Subchapter H, Passenger Vessels. It has also met the accessibility requirements of the Proposed Accessibility Guidelines for Passenger Vessels, U.S. Access Board.

“We are honored to be given another opportunity to fulfill the shipbuilding needs of the Virginia Department of Transportation,” Ronald Baczkowski, chief executive officer of VT Halter Marine, said in a statement announcing the launching. “We hope that the Powhatan delivers many years of great performance on par with the prior ferry, the Pocahontas that we had designed, built and delivered in 1995.”

“The launching of the Powhatan will add more capacity and travel time reliability for ferry passengers on both sides of the James River,” said Chris Hall, VDOT Hampton Roads district engineer.

The Powhatan will join the 50-car Williamsburg, 50-car Surry and 70-car Pocahontas in the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry system fleet. The Pocahontas was also designed and constructed by VT Halter and delivered in 1995.


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.