UPPER TOWNSHIP — Yank Marine Inc., in Tuckahoe, signed a $10.4 million contract this month to build two new Hudson River ferries for the nation’s largest private ferry operator.
It’s the first major boat-building contract for the Cape May County company since the 2007 recession, said owner Bette Jean Yank, of Upper Township.
The New York Waterway ferries will take 14 months each to build at the company’s shipyard off the Tuckahoe River.
“We’re pretty excited. They’re probably the most expensive boats we’ve ever built. It’s a very large undertaking, but it’s pretty exciting to get our foot in the door with building these types of vessels,” she said.
Yank has built private yachts but specializes in building commercial fishing boats and passenger vessels using materials ranging from Fiberglas to steel to wood and aluminum. The ferries represent the 90th and 91st U.S. Coast Guard-approved passenger boats built by the company since Yank’s husband, John Yank Jr., started the business in 1967.
The new 110-foot-long ferries will be big enough to accommodate 350 passengers at a cruising speed of about 24 knots.
Work is expected to begin in January.
Yank said the company plans to hire as many as 25 workers for the job — boosting the company’s payroll by nearly 50 percent. Especially needed will be welders who are familiar with the aluminum construction the company will employ on the new boats.
New York Waterway, a private company based in Weehawken, N.J., provides ferry service between and among New York and New Jersey terminals along the East and Hudson rivers.
The company ferries about 35,000 commuters to work each day. It has 33 ferries in operations that make 8 million trips per year across its 21 routes.
Yank is familiar with all of the company’s ferries. The Cape May County company has done engine, repair and maintenance work for its entire fleet, including the Moira Smith, the ferryboat that rescued passengers of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 after it crash-landed on the Hudson River in 2009.
New York Waterway said it was working with Gov. Chris Christie’s office to make a formal announcement soon about the contract.
The ferries will be built in Yank’s 18,000-square-foot manufacturing building, where the company is currently building a 65-foot Florida charter boat.
Yank said the construction of new commercial boats has suffered during the recession, much like the recreational boat-manufacturing industry. Her company has been busy with maintenance and repairs for the East Coast’s fleet of tugs, fishing boats, barges and passenger boats.
“It’s been a while since we’ve seen any new construction. It’s looking good for the industry,” she said.
The addition of as many as 25 skilled marine-industry jobs is not insignifcant for Cape May and Cumberland counties, said Richard Perniciaro, an economist and director of Atlantic Cape Community College's Center for Regional and Business Research.
“Boat building has been in the doldrums since the recession started,” he said. “They’ll need a good variety of jobs there, finishers and things like that. So anything that can get some craftsmen and welders working is welcome.”
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