No Quick Fix for SI Ferries Crippled by Chronic Engine Trouble

The Staten Island Ferry is free to passengers, but engine problems with three of the fleet’s seven boats are costing the city millions. And that’s causing a showdown between the city Department of Transportation and Comptroller John Liu.

DOT said the ferry’s three largest boats, which came with a $139 million price tag, have had problems with their propulsion systems since they went into service in 2005 and 2006. The department said the original contractor, the Wisconsin-based Manitowoc Marine Corporation, has failed repeatedly to fix them. The department has asked Liu to approve an emergency contract of $9.5 million to hire Siemens to fix the ferries.

DOT Spokesman Scott Gastel said in a statement to WNYC that, “This vendor will be a one stop shop for an integrated propulsion system on all three boats, an upgrade that will benefit over 65,000 passengers who rely on the Ferry each day. We clearly explained to the Comptroller why the new Siemens products are needed.”

Liu, however, is not pleased. He said, “It’s appalling that the highly-touted new ferry boats are still saddled with defects, and more troubling that the DOT has no clear solution for resolving these longstanding problems.”

The comptroller is only approving $3.2 million for repair work on one of the ferries, which is in dry dock in Virginia. He said if that goes well, he might approve more.

In the meantime, ferry riders must make do with boats that have trouble getting up to speed.