Eastern Shipbuilding Launches First Ollis-Class Ferry

Image courtesy Gov. Ron DeSantis / Twitter

Published Nov 19, 2019 8:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Friday, Eastern Shipbuilding Group took a major step in its post-hurricane recovery with the launch of the SSG Michael H. Ollis, the first of three new 4,500-passenger ferries for New York City's Staten Island Ferry system. The yard was hit hard by Hurricane Michael in 2018, and though it has experienced delays due to the storm damage and the impact on its workforce, it is bouncing back. 

“Today is an exciting day, especially for the employees of Eastern Shipbuilding Group and for the citizens of Northwest Florida. The launch of this addition to the iconic Staten Island Ferry marks a significant milestone in the recovery of Bay County and Northwest Florida," said ESG president Joey D’Isernia. "Much like the rest of Bay County, this facility and our Nelson Street facility were virtually unrecognizable after the storm. Through the hard work and determination of each and every ESG employee, as well as the support of our families, friends, neighbors, vendors and customers, we have rebuilt this facility in a year’s time . . .  I remain inspired by your tenacity, grit, and determination and I am excited about what the future will bring, knowing we are in this together.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis attended the launch ceremony and expressed his support for the yard's renewal. “Florida has long held a strong partnership with Eastern Shipbuilding Group which is one of the leading economic drivers and employers in Northwest Florida,” said Governor DeSantis. “I look forward to seeing more accomplishments like today’s in the near future.” 

The new Staten Island Ferry series was ordered in April 2017, and the first in the class was originally scheduled for delivery in mid-2019. The series is named in honor of Army Staff Sgt. Michael H. Ollis, a Staten Island native who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013. Sgt. Ollis stepped in front of a Polish officer in order to protect him from the detonation of an insurgent's suicide vest during a raid on Forward Operating Base Ghazni. Ollis received multiple posthumous awards, including the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Silver Star and Polish Gold Star Medal of Honor.

The second vessel in the class, the future Sandy Ground, is currently under construction. 

Eastern also holds a major contract with the U.S. Coast Guard for the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) program, the agency's largest ever procurement initiative. The original agreement called for ESG to build up to nine vessels - with potential for as many as 25 - but the contract has been scaled back due to the effects of the hurricane on the construction schedule. Under the terms of the new arrangement, ESG will still build the first four vessels in the series, but the program will be restructured and reopened to competition for the rest of the hulls.