NORFOLK, VA – On the hottest day of the year to date, a cool bottle of champagne was broken over the rail of the Elizabeth River IV, thus christening Hampton Roads Transit’s (HRT) newest passenger ferry. Designed by BMT and constructed by Armstrong Marine in North Carolina, the vessel is the first of three to be delivered to the agency as part of a $7M program to replace the fleet’s aging vessels, the newest of which was delivered in 1990 and the oldest of which has been in service since 1982.
The timing is good for HRT, which just celebrated the 15-millionth passenger on its ferry service. William Harrell, HRT’s CEO and President commented “In terms of today’s milestone, ferry service has surged in the last few months with the beautiful weather and the opening of the Waterside District”, a $40m dining and entertainment complex built to spur the local economy of downtown Norfolk. Norfolk Councilman Martin Thomas and Portsmouth Mayor John Rowe also delivered remarks, with Mayor Rowe having the honor of breaking the champagne.
The 149-passenger, 78-foot, aluminum ferry is powered by twin Volvo D13-400 Tier III-compliant engines, spinning 36-inch propellers via Twin Disc reduction gears. Key improvements over the existing Elizabeth River ferries include electronic controls and navigation, greater fuel efficiency, accessibility features, and a more efficient two-ramp configuration. In contrast with previous vessels that only had a single side ramp, the new configuration allows passengers to embark and disembark faster. The flat deck and door sill ramps also significantly improve access for those with disabilities.
The vessel’s christening is also a key milestone for BMT. The Elizabeth River IV is the first in a series of U.S. passenger vessels due to be delivered in the next year, including new ferries for the Sayville Ferry Service, New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, and Entertainment Cruises. “We’ve made a concerted effort to bring BMT’s world-class ferry design portfolio to the U.S. market,” said BMT Designers & Planners President Kai Skvarla. He continues: “It’s exciting to have our first passenger vessel designed exclusively here in the U.S. entering service, with a lot more on the way from BMT in the coming year.”