Thoma-Sea Marine Contractors, Houma, La., recently built and launched the 168'x45' passenger, truck and automobile ferry Carmen Lee.  

The ferry, designed by New Orleans-based TAI Engineers LLC and projected to begin service in early 2022, was built for a partnership between the Lorain Port Authority (LPA) and Kelleys Island Ferry Boat Line. It can hold 149 passengers and 36 trucks and automobiles. The Carmen Lee will operate on Lake Erie providing service between Marblehead, Ohio, and Kelleys Island, Ohio.

TAI was selected in a competitive procurement by LPA in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to provide naval architecture and marine engineering services for the design and specification of this ferry. TAI also provided professional support for the competitive procurement of a shipyard to build the new ferry.  TAI’s work included drawing review, construction inspection, as well as test and trial supervision of the boat during its construction. The Carmen Lee has been built to conform (but not certified) to American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) standards and is inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard.

TAI Engineers is a subsidiary of S&B Infrastructure Ltd (S&B), a company that specializes in master planning, transportation and drainage system design and construction, environmental services, facility audits, marine systems and storage tanks. S&B Infrastructure serves governmental customers in the U.S., Caribbean, Central and South America.

“TAI Engineers and S&B Infrastructure are proud to utilize our marine engineering expertise to help improve transportation, mobility and accessibility for the Lorain Port Authority and Kelleys Island Ferry Boat Line,” said Danny Rios, president of S&B Infrastructure. “TAI’s marine capabilities, especially in passenger and automobile ferries, nicely complement S&B’s transportation and highway design capabilities.”

The double-ended ferry is designed to operate on lakes, bays and sounds. The vessel has a steel hull and deckhouse design and is compliant with USCG 46 CFR Subchapter T regulations. The main deck is high-strength AH 36 steel to withstand tire loadings from up to 36 cars or equipment trucks in four lanes.

Main propulsion comes from four Caterpillar C18 propulsion engines, producing 470 hp at 1,800 rpm, each driving Schottel SRP 150FP Z-drives using Twin Disc HPTO hydraulic clutches. The propulsion package allows precision maneuvering in challenging Lake Erie approaches during harsh weather and provides propulsion redundancy.

Ship’s service power comes from two Cummins Onan 40-kW marine gensets. Kelleys Island Ferry Boat Line has a similar ferry called the Shirley Irene in operation on this route.

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.