NEW YORK -- A commuter ferry involved in a crash Wednesday in Lower Manhattan that left 57 people injured, two of them critically, underwent significant renovations last summer that replaced its high-speed four-engine system with a propeller system that left it lighter and more fuel efficient.
The changes to the Seastreak Wall Street, a 140.7-foot-long catamaran with three decks, were detailed in the online shipping magazine Marinelog in an August 2012 report, which explained how the engines had been swapped out for propellers by a Louisiana-based company. According to Marinelog, the changes were deemed suitable for the boat given operating costs, changes to the ferry’s schedule, and the age of the original engine system, which had been in place since the vessel’s launch in 2003.
Investigators say they will look into every aspect of the boat to determine why it failed to stop properly as it arrived at Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan about 8:45 a.m. Wednesday. As part of the probe, investigators were conducting toxicology tests on the ship’s operators.
The Seastreak had come from Atlantic Highlands, N.J., about 47 miles to the south, and was carrying 326 passengers and five crew members when it hit a slip at the pier, then kept going and smashed into a second slip.
The impact left a large gash in the right front of the boat and sent passengers flying down stairs, to the ground, and, in at least one case, through a glass door.
According to Marinelog, the new engine system “involved a considerable reconfiguration” of the vessel’s aft section. It said large sections of the topsides and undersides of the ship’s hull were removed as part of the work involved in installing the propellers and rudders. Significant cosmetic changes also were made that involved “gutting the interior.” It also said the ship was 15 metric tons lighter than originally built and had undergone sea trials after the changes.
The boat’s first propulsion engine system was chosen “with emphasis on speed,” and enabled the Seastreak to travel at speeds in excess of 38 knots, according to Marinelog. The new system slowed it down by about three knots and halved CO2 emissions, Marinelog said.
Seastreak officials did not respond to emails or phone calls about the renovations to the boat, one of several in its fleet of passenger ferries. According to the company's website, the Seastreak Wall Street can carry 505 people.
“We regret to report that the Seastreak Wall Street struck Pier 11 near Wall Street while docking this morning at approximately 8:45 a.m.,” it said in a posting on its website and Facebook page.
“A number of passengers were injured,” it said, adding: “Our thoughts and prayers are with those that were injured. Seastreak LLC will work closely with … authorities to determine the cause of the accident.”