Florida yard Eastern Shipbuilding has signed a contract with the New York City Department of Transportation for three new ferries for the Staten Island run, perhaps the best-known ferry route in the United States.
The bright orange Staten Island passenger ferries carry 70,000 people a day between St. George and Whitehall Street, with sweeping views of the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn, Governor's Island and the Manhattan skyline. The free boarding and the conveniently located terminal near Wall Street make the short route a major tourist attraction.
The new Ollis Class ferries will be double ended, 320 feet long and 70 feet wide. Like the Barberi class ferries, the largest vessels on the Staten Island run, they will be built with twin Voith Schneider cycloidal drives. Elliott Bay Design Group provided the design and Karl Senner will provide two Reintjes combining reduction gears for each vessel.
The value of the contract comes to about $100 million per ferry, and the first will be delivered in 2019. The first vessel in the class will be named in honor of Staten Islander Staff Sgt. Michael H. Ollis, who was killed in Afghanistan saving the life of a Polish soldier from a suicide bomber in 2013.
The ferries will be built alongside the Coast Guard's new Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs) at Eastern’s yard. The Coast Guard order gave the Florida shipbuilder the contract for the lead ship in the class and options for eight more, worth up to $2.4 billion in total. If Eastern ends up building all 25 in the OPC series, the contract value will exceed $10 billion – the Coast Guard's largest acquisition ever. The OPC award alone is expected to create more than 2,000 direct jobs in Northwest Florida, and the the ferry contract may well lead to further new hires.
New York City is also about to launch the new Citywide ferry system, the city's largest waterborne transportation initiative in decades. Metal Shark and Horizon Shipbuilding are building a series of 19 aluminum-hulled passenger vessels for Citywide, which will be operated by Hornblower subsidiary HNY Ferry Fleet. The first ferry arrived in New York's harbor on Tuesday, completing the long journey around Florida and up the eastern seaboard. Three more will depart the Gulf Coast this week and should be in New York by the end of the month. The first Citywide route – a long run between the Rockaways, Brooklyn Army Terminal and Wall Street – will start in June.