New Port Aransas ferry starts service

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texferrymicroThe first two of a new class of vessels designed by Seattle-based Elliott Bay Design Group LLC (EBDG) and built for the Port Aransas Ferry Service by Southwest Shipyard LP went into operation July 1.

EBDG was selected by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Corpus Christi District, to prepare the design for this new 160-ft double-ended ferry serving as a continuation of Texas State Highway 361 across the Corpus Christi Channel, between Port Aransas and Harbor Island.


The new vessels, the Michael W. Behrens and the Charles W. Heald – named for former directors of the transportation department – increase the Port Aransas fleet to eight vessels. Each new vessel has a carrying capacity of 28 vehicles, eight more than the port’s older ferries.

One of the most significant structural improvements of these vessels is the pilothouse support. “The old vessels have a pilothouse on a pylon that comes up from the center of the vehicle deck,” said Brian King, Vice President of Engineering at EBDG. “This ferry has the pilothouse over a bridging structure supported on each edge of the ferry, leaving the vehicle lanes clear of obstructions. This is most significant for trucks that load on the center line of the vessel.” The ability of large trucks to roll on and roll off without maneuvering around a pilothouse support significantly reduces loading and unloading times.

“These vessels are also considerably more fuel efficient and produce fewer emissions,” said King. MTU engines drive two shafts at 600 horsepower each, an increase in power over the older ferries, which have two shafts at 375 horsepower each.

In addition to providing a smoother and quieter ride, the new ferries include passenger shelters and accessibility for passengers with disabilities. The vessels are ABS classed and U.S. Coast Guard inspected.



  • Length overall (molded)    159 ft 7 in
  • Length on design load waterline    153 ft 6 in
  • Length between perpendiculars    145 ft 0 in
  • Breadth (molded) over guard    52 ft 0 in
  • Breadth (molded) at DLWL    42 ft 4 in
  • Depth (molded) amidships at side    11 ft 8 in
  • Draft (molded) at DLWL    8 ft 0 in
  • Displacement (molded) at DLWL    512.7 LTSW
  • Maximum DWT Capacity    234 LT
  • US Gross Tonnage    79 GT
  • Brake Horsepower (@2100 Engine RPM)    600 BHP
  • Generators (2) continuous duty service @ 1800 rpm    55 KW @ 0.8 pf, 60 HZ
  • Fuel Oil Capacity (95%)    4,200 Gallons
  • Automobile Capacity    28
  • Passenger Capacity    150

July 15, 2011

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