BY FRANK MCCORMACK
January 1, 2018
A new ferry operator in New York City is experiencing explosive growth in ridership and routes, thanks in part to speedy vessel construction at two shipyards in the Gulf Coast region. NYC Ferry, operated by Hornblower, now operates more than 20 ferries on routes throughout the New York City area.
NYC Ferry launched its Rockaway and East River routes on May 1, followed by a South Brooklyn line June 1 and an Astoria route August 29. The ferry operator plans to add routes between Soundview and the Lower East Side and Manhattan next summer. New York City invested $325 million to launch the ferry service, with Hornblower acting as the operator.
Less than three months into operation, NYC Ferry celebrated its one millionth rider July 26. Ridership has now passed 2 million.
Horizon Shipbuilding in Bayou La Batre, Ala., built an initial 10 catamaran-style ferries, each able to carry 150 passengers. Likewise, Metal Shark Boats in Jeanerette, La., was awarded an initial contract for six 85-foot, 150-passenger ferries. Both Horizon and Metal Shark built and delivered the Incat Crowther-designed ferries in rapid succession.
But after the initial delivery of their respective ferries, the experiences of Horizon and Metal Shark went in divergent directions. On September 26, Metal Shark announced it had received an order from NYC Ferry for four larger 350-passenger ferries as well as one more 150-passenger ferry.
“As proud as we are of our previous record of on-time deliveries to Hornblower, it’s even more of an honor that the client returned to us to produce these significantly larger vessels under even more challenging timelines,” Metal Shark CEO Chris Allard said in a statement. “Over the past few months, we have been working closely with Hornblower to meet the demands of these accelerated-delivery orders. Our client’s confidence in us speaks volumes, and our team is 100 percent up to the task.
Metal Shark looks forward to delivering these new, state-of-the-art passenger vessels to Hornblower, NYC Ferry and to the people of New York.”
At almost the same time, though, Horizon announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and reorganizing because of revenue shortfalls stemming from the company’s contract with Hornblower.
“Through the unparalleled commitment of Horizon’s boat builders, subcontractors and suppliers, all of the 2017 ferries have been delivered,” Horizon Vice President Lance Lemcool said in a September 21 statement. “However, project revenues were not sufficient for Horizon to continue normal day-to-day operations.”
In the statement, Lemcool said revenue shortfalls had been brought to the attention of Hornblower but that no resolution had been reached.
“Horizon will now take the time to reorganize its current projects and make every effort to regain its reputation with the vendors and subcontractors that help make up the Horizon Team,” Lamcool said in the statement.
Horizon filed the bankruptcy petition October 24.
Despite its reorganization and NYC Ferry-related shortfalls, Horizon continues to deliver innovative vessels on extremely tight timelines. Just last month, Horizon announced the delivery of a 60-foot landing barge with an 18-foot molded beam, built for Sunset Key Transportation Corporation. The landing barge will provide access to Sunset Key, a small island located just to the west of Key West. Horizon’s engineering department provided detail design, with basic design by Shipwright LLC of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“We were sourcing shipyards that could deliver quickly, and Horizon provided that,” said Barry Kimball, Sunset Key’s Executive Program Manager. “During construction, Hurricane Irma hit Key West, which created even more urgency for the barge. Horizon redoubled their efforts to get us this critical asset as soon as possible, which is appreciated.”