A local shipyard in Bayou La Batre is booming with contracts that range from projects along the Gulf Coast to as far north as New York City. Horizon Shipbuilding is contracted to build at least 10 New York City passenger ferries; a contract ranging from $30 to $40 million that created nearly 80 new jobs at the shipyard.
“Aluminum fast ferries have not been on our resume yet. We’ve built passenger boats in the past, but mostly for the oil fields, so this is our first fast ferry. And, it’s quite a fantastic design to boot,” Horizon Shipbuilding President Travis Short said.
“What we’re doing now is really a historic expansion of the ferry service in New York Harbor. It’s connecting a series of neighborhoods that are historically underserved by the existing mass transit in the city,” explained Seth Myers, Director of Project Implementation at NYCEDC. “Whereas before, people would have to walk over half a mile to get to a subway, now we can get them on to these great new boats and utilize one of the great aspects of New York; its great rivers and harbor where there’s very little traffic and there’s a lot of capacity to move people safely and efficiently.”
The Hornblower Company will be operating the Citywide Ferry Service, and CEO Terry MacRae said the south was an obvious location for the contract.
“You have a longer building season. It’s easier to paint and since our schedule is compressed, we’re working really hard to run an accelerated project here. Doing this in on Gulf Coast is one of the ways you can do that,” MacRae said. “We specifically chose the Gulf because the oil industry is down a little bit, so there’s manpower available here to shift to the passenger vessel industry,” MacRae.
The Citywide Ferry Service will be fully operational in 2018, but the first ferry will be ready for water testing as early as January 2017. Short said this contract is one of the largest projects for Horizon.
Metal Shark in Louisiana is also building identical ferries as part of the project, and even though the two companies are collaborating, there are more ferries up for grabs for construction contracts.