Volume 16 • Issue 44 | April 2 - 8, 2004

Catamaran crashes into Seaport pier, via Australia

By Albert Amateau

Downtown Express photos by Ramin Talaie

The Spirit of Ontario I, may have made out fine through a South Pacific typhoon, but docking at the Seaport was tougher as it rammed into Pier 17, sustaining damage.

A catamaran ferry making a stop at the South St. Seaport on its 15,500-mile voyage from Perth, Australia to Rochester, N.Y. crashed into the north side of Pier 17 on Thursday morning April 1, causing minor damage to the ferry and the pier.

There were no injuries and Michael Piazzola, general manager of the Seaport Marketplace, described the damage to the pier as “mostly cosmetic”. However, structural engineers were on hand Thursday afternoon checking on the pier, Piazzola said.

The ferry, Spirit of Ontario 1, sustained a 24-ft. gash in the hull about 10 feet above the waterline, according to Chief Petty Officer Dave French, a Coast Guard spokesperson, who characterized the accident as “a minor fender-bender.” Nevertheless, Coast Guard investigators held the vessel at the pier Thursday while investigating the cause of the accident and conducting required alcohol and drug tests of crewmembers.

The ferry was designed to dock at a roll-on roll-off slip like the one at South Ferry rather than at a finger pier like the one at the Seaport, according to French.

There were 17 people aboard the vessel, most of them officials of Austral, the Australian shipbuilder that was delivering the vessel it had built in Perth to Canadian American Transportation Systems in Rochester. The catamaran ferry was scheduled to begin regular two-hour fifteen-minute service between Rochester and Toronto in May.

“We’ll get it repaired in the New York Harbor area and we don’t expect much delay, if any at all, in our maiden voyage,” said Howard Thomas, president of Canadian American, which is buying the vessel for $42 million.

The twin-hulled vessel, propelled by water jets, is 300 feet long, five stories high and designed to accommodate 778 passenger and 238 vehicles. It has two movie theaters, a business lounge, cocktail lounges, a duty-free shop and a children’s play area. It will carry about 30 employees, most of them in passenger service, including an operating crew of four.

The Seaport was the next-to-last stop on the vessel’s voyage of 15,514 nautical miles that began six weeks ago in Perth on Australia’s west coast. “She stopped in New Caledonia, then Honolulu and beat out a typhoon on the way,” said Thomas. The vessel then veered south to Mexico, went through the Panama Canal and then north through the Caribbean and up the coast to New York. After repairs, Spirit of Ontario 1 is scheduled to go north to the St. Lawrence River and through the Seaway to Lake Ontario and its homeport in Rochester.


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