MAY 24, 2018 —Ferry service is undergoing a renaissance in New York City and yesterday it crowned its queen when Seastreak, LLC, Atlantic Highlands, NJ, commissioned the 600-passenger M/V Seastreak Commodore, the largest U.S. Coast Guard Subchapter K high-speed ferry operating in the U.S.
Built at a cost of some $13 million at Gulf Craft, Inc., Franklin, LA, the sleek Seastreak Commodore has the distinctive, yacht-like profile that has become the signature look of Australian naval architectural firm Incat Crowther—which has designed hundreds of passenger catamarans. However, at yesterday’s commissioning, Seastreak’s President James (Jim) A. Barker, noted that there were 78 changes to the drawings for the Seastreak Commodore before any metal was cut at the shipyard. “We knew what we wanted,” said Barker. “We got a boat that if we were going to do it again, we would not make any changes.”
Barker credited the hard work of Seastreak’s operations and engineering team, which was led by Jack Bevins, Vice President of Operations, and Brian Achille, Director of Vessel Engineering.
The Commodore is the “centerpiece of a $30 million program to bring Seastreak into the 21st century,” said Seastreak Chairman James R. Barker. The program started with interior and propulsion upgrades of the Seastreak Wall Street and Seastreak New York, and is continuing with the Seastreak New Jersey (currently being refit at a shipyard in Louisiana), and the Seastreak Highlands. Additionally, a keel has been laid at Midship Marine, Harvey, LA, for a second Commodore Class boat similar to the Seastreak Commodore.
Photo inset: (L to R): Jack Bevins, Vice President of Operations, Seastreak, LLC, James R. Barker, Chairman, Seastreak, LLC, and Jim Barker, President, Seastreak, LLC, on the deck of the new Seastreak Commodore
Named in honor of Cornelius Vanderbilt, nicknamed the “Commodore” as the progenitor of commercial ferry service between Staten Island and Manhattan, the Seastreak Commodore is a well-appointed commuter ferry, with panoramic windows, flatscreen TVs, a well-stocked bar (always a crowd-pleaser on the boat), comfortable airline-type seating, wood-like flooring, LED lighting, WiFi, and seven restrooms. Cruising at 38 knots, the high-speed ferry whisks up to 600 passengers from Atlantic Highlands and Highlands in Monmouth County, NJ, to Wall Street in about 40 minutes. The passenger seating is arranged to have 520 interior seats with an additional 206 exterior seats supplied by Berteaux located on the ferry’s second and third deck.
Photo at left, the Seastreak Commodore has a spacious, comfortable seating area
Propulsion for the aluminum-hulled catamaran is supplied by four MTU 12V4000 M64, EPA-compliant, Tier 3 diesel engines, that drive four KaMeWa 63S4 waterjets supplied by Rolls-Royce.
Karl Senner, LLC, Kenner, LA, supplied four Reintjes WVS 730 reverse reduction gearboxes that allow for back-flushing the waterjets. These gearboxes utilize lightweight aluminum housings, diagonal offsets, and robust gearing ideal for high speed catamaran with high operating hours.
The bridge features advanced bridge navigation equipment, supplied by Furuno USA, including: two 32 in. x-band high speed radars, FLIR night vision technology, and a Furuno ECDIS chart plotting system.
NYC Ferry Resurgence
The Seastreak Commodore feels and rides like a big boat. With an overall length of 147 ft 8 in, beam of 39 ft 5 in, and draft of 5 ft 4 in, it dwarves the new 149-passenger ferries being operated by Hornblower in NYC Ferry interborough ferry service.
Seastreak’s multimillion dollar investment in its fleet is part of a resurgence of ferries in New York Harbor, propelled by a booming commercial and residential real estate market on the waterfront, anemically underfunded, overcrowded, rickety subway system, and the establishment of the new NYC Ferry system that connects Manhattan with the outer boroughs. While there has been a lot of finger pointing about the current sad state of the NYC subway system, Mayor Bill de Blasio has drawn praise (for the most part) for the establishment of the NYC Ferry service, which carried 3.7 million passengers on four routes during its first year in operation.
With two more routes launching this summer, the city projects passenger numbers could reach 9 million by 2023. The popularity of the service has been such that Mayor de Blasio announced on May 3—almost one year to the day of the launch of the NYC Ferry service—that the city was going to invest another $300 million for new 350-passenger boats, improvements to piers and docks, and a second homeport where ferries will be maintained and repaired. Over the next five years, the city expects to double the capacity of its fleet, increase the frequency of its service, and enhance piers to allow additional vessels to dock simultaneously.
The city’s Department of Transportation is also building three 4,500-passenger iconic orange Staten Island Ferries at Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama City, FL, at a price of some $300 million.
Private investors such as Circle Line are upgrading their fleets to tote tourists around the harbor and Manhattan and the Trust of Governors Island has ordered a new steel-hulled ferry from Blount Boats, Warren, RI, for the 800-yard crossing between The Battery in Lower Manhattan and the island.