The city will bring in a team of experts and inspectors to examine flaws that have appeared on nearly a third of the vessels in its NYC Ferry fleet that has been in operation for less than a year after a $325 million investment.
City Hall also wants answers after more than 100 passengers bound for the Rockaways became stuck aboard their ferry just after 5 p.m. Monday as the boat struck an underwater object and took on water as it departed Pier 11 near Wall Street.
There were no injuries and the passengers were instructed to wear life vests as a precaution, officials said.
The NYPD and FDNY responded and helped the 114 passengers, six crew members, and one dog disembark The Zelinsky around 7 p.m. They then boarded two other vessels, which completed the trip to the Rockaways.
“We were glad all passengers were safely disembarked and regret the inconvenience,” City Hall spokeswoman Melissa Grace said.
NYPD Harbor and FDNY Marine Division were operating six gas-powered pumps to remove the water from the vessel, which was freed and towed to dry dock early Tuesday morning. The Zelinsky will undergo inspections and repairs as the investigation continues, officials said.
The Zelinsky is not one of the new NYC Ferry vessels but an older watercraft owned by service operator Hornblower and used as a spare for ferry service. NYC Ferry was back to a regular schedule Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a half dozen of the new NYC Ferry vessels have been taken out of service for various reasons. Mayor de Blasio ordered an independent investigation to “get to the bottom of this” after damage was found on the hulls of the vessels beginning last month.
Three of the vessels have been dry docked and are receiving repairs for corrosion on its hulls and while there was some weakening in the aluminum, there were no holes or leaks of any kind, according to officials from the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which funds the fleet. Repairs include sandblasting away and then patching or replacing any weakened areas of the hulls and some holes were created as part of the repair process, officials said. Passenger safety was never at risk and all repair costs are the responsibility of Hornblower, and because the repairs are being done in the off season, they will not impact service or schedules.
“This is a minor issue affecting three boats,” city Economic Development Corp. spokeswoman Stephanie Baez said. “It hasn’t impacted service and it won’t cost the city a penny to fix. Regular inspections caught it early and solved it quickly, which means the system is working.”
Three additional boats were taken out of service Monday and are headed to dry dock for additional inspections and any necessary repairs. While one of the vessels was pulled as a precautionary measure, two of them were found to have pin-prick size holes in the hulls in addition to other mechanical problems.
Hornblower notified the Coast Guard, which is working with them to schedule inspections.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr
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