Hornblower New York is ramping up for the debut of the New York Citywide Ferry, one of the most ambitious new waterborne passenger services in recent memory.
Hornblower's first 150-passenger ferries will be delivered beginning in the first quarter, and the first sailing across the East River is scheduled for the summer. Hornblower is now hiring for qualified port captains, captains and deckhands, with a signing bonus of $2500 for masters who stay through the first 90 days.
The service brings the city's waterborne transport network back towards the levels of the 1850s, when passenger vessels provided 40 million crossings a year between Brooklyn and Manhattan. When fully operational, the system will run six routes: Manhattan to North Brooklyn, South Brooklyn, Astoria (in two ways), the Rockaways and Soundview. In the future, the service could expand to include routes to Coney Island and Staten Island.
The ferries will shave significant time off of the commute for far-flung neighborhoods. By subway, Rockaway Park is about 90 minutes away from Lower Manhattan. After the ferry begins operations, residents will have a 60-minute point-to-point ride to Manhattan, with a beautiful view included in every fare. And the fares are low – equal to the $2.75 cost of a subway ride – making the system accessible to low-income residents.
To achieve that price point, the city has pledged $30 million per year in operating support, which works out to a subsidy of about $6.60 per trip on an expected 4.6 million trips per year. In addition, the city is spending $55 million on building or improving shoreside landing facilities.
Building a ferry system
To meet the city’s needs, Hornblower has ordered a series of 19 aluminum catamaran ferries from Horizon Shipbuilding and Metal Shark, two prominent shipbuilders on the Gulf Coast. The city's service contract calls for rapid construction: Hornblower won the award in March of 2016, and the first ferries will enter operation this summer.
In order to speed up construction, Horizon and Metal Shark have taken the extraordinary step of sharing a limited amount of production information with each other and with their client via Horizon's "Gordhead" task tracking software. The yards acknowledge that it is unusual for competitors to give each other access to information about the inner workings of their facilities, but the software lets them ensure that Hornblower's fleet will be nearly identical from one vessel to the next, down to the exact placement of bulkhead penetrations and electrical fixtures. (Naturally each yard is quick to note that its boats will still be better than the other's.) This unusual client-oriented business model allows the yards to deliver an arrangement that serves the needs of the contract: spreading procurement risk between two shipbuilders while retaining the uniform output of a single facility.