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The Staten Island Ferry in the United States shuttles commuters between Manhattan and Staten Island in New York City. Spirit of America - Staten Island Ferry.jpg
The Staten Island Ferry in the United States shuttles commuters between Manhattan and Staten Island in New York City.
A typical car ferry in Istanbul, Turkey IstanbulFerry.jpg
A typical car ferry in Istanbul, Turkey
Passenger area of a Norwegian ferry Old Norwegian ferry interior.JPG
Passenger area of a Norwegian ferry

A ferry is a merchant vessel used to carry passengers, and sometimes vehicles and cargo, across a body of water. A passenger ferry with many stops, such as in Venice, Italy, is sometimes called a water bus or water taxi.

Venice Comune in Veneto, Italy

Venice is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region. It is situated on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. The islands are located in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay that lies between the mouths of the Po and the Piave rivers. In 2018, 260,897 people resided in the Comune di Venezia, of whom around 55,000 live in the historical city of Venice. Together with Padua and Treviso, the city is included in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area (PATREVE), which is considered a statistical metropolitan area, with a total population of 2.6 million.

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a European country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps and surrounded by several islands. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and traversed along its length by the Apennines, Italy has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. The country covers a total area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi), and land area of 294,140 km2 (113,570 sq mi), and shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, and the enclaved microstates of Vatican City and San Marino. Italy has a territorial exclave in Switzerland (Campione) and a maritime exclave in the Tunisian Sea (Lampedusa). With around 60 million inhabitants, Italy is the fourth-most populous member state of the European Union.

Water taxi watercraft used to provide public transport

A water taxi or a water bus, also known as a sightseeing boat, is a watercraft used to provide public or private transport, usually, but not always, in an urban environment. Service may be scheduled with multiple stops, operating in a similar manner to a bus, or on demand to many locations, operating in a similar manner to a taxi. A boat service shuttling between two points would normally be described as a ferry rather than a water bus or taxi.


Ferries form a part of the public transport systems of many waterside cities and islands, allowing direct transit between points at a capital cost much lower than bridges or tunnels. Ship connections of much larger distances (such as over long distances in water bodies like the Mediterranean Sea) may also be called ferry services, especially if they carry vehicles.

Public transport Shared transportation service for use by the general public

Public transport is a system of transport for passengers by group travel systems available for use by the general public, typically managed on a schedule, operated on established routes, and that charge a posted fee for each trip. Examples of public transport include city buses, trolleybuses, trams and passenger trains, rapid transit and ferries. Public transport between cities is dominated by airlines, coaches, and intercity rail. High-speed rail networks are being developed in many parts of the world.

Capital costs are fixed, one-time expenses incurred on the purchase of land, buildings, construction, and equipment used in the production of goods or in the rendering of services. In other words, it is the total cost needed to bring a project to a commercially operable status. Whether a particular cost is capital or not depend on many factors such as accounting, tax laws, and materiality.

Bridge structure built to span physical obstacles

A bridge is a structure built to span a physical obstacle, such as a body of water, valley, or road, without closing the way underneath. It is constructed for the purpose of providing passage over the obstacle, usually something that can be detrimental to cross otherwise. There are many different designs that each serve a particular purpose and apply to different situations. Designs of bridges vary depending on the function of the bridge, the nature of the terrain where the bridge is constructed and anchored, the material used to make it, and the funds available to build it.


In ancient times

The profession of the ferryman is embodied in Greek mythology in Charon, the boatman who transported souls across the River Styx to the Underworld.

Greek mythology body of myths originally told by the ancient Greeks

Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the ancient Greeks. These stories concern the origin and the nature of the world, the lives and activities of deities, heroes, and mythological creatures, and the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks' own cult and ritual practices. Modern scholars study the myths in an attempt to shed light on the religious and political institutions of ancient Greece and its civilization, and to gain understanding of the nature of myth-making itself.

Greek underworld location in Greek mythology

In mythology, the Greek underworld is an otherworld where souls go after death. The original Greek idea of afterlife is that, at the moment of death, the soul is separated from the corpse, taking on the shape of the former person, and is transported to the entrance of the underworld. The underworld itself—sometimes known as Hades, after its patron god—is described as being either at the outer bounds of the ocean or beneath the depths or ends of the earth. It is considered the dark counterpart to the brightness of Mount Olympus with the kingdom of the dead corresponding to the kingdom of the gods. Hades is a realm invisible to the living, made solely for the dead.

Speculation that a pair of oxen propelled a ship having a water wheel can be found in 4th century Roman literature "Anonymus De Rebus Bellicis". Though impractical, there is no reason why it could not work and such a ferry, modified by using horses, was used in Lake Champlain in 19th-century America. See "When Horses Walked on Water: Horse-Powered Ferries in Nineteenth-Century America" (Smithsonian Institution Press; Kevin Crisman, co-authored with Arthur Cohn, Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum). See Experiment (horse powered boat).

Ox common bovine draft and riding animal

An ox, also known as a bullock in Australia and India, is a bovine trained as a draft animal. Oxen are commonly castrated adult male cattle; castration makes the animals easier to control. Cows or bulls may also be used in some areas.

Notable services


MV Victoria (formerly RMS Victoria) at Bukoba Port in Lake Victoria, Africa. MV Victoria.jpg
MV Victoria (formerly RMS Victoria) at Bukoba Port in Lake Victoria, Africa.

The Marine Services Company of Tanzania offers passenger and cargo services in Lakes Victoria, Tanganyika and Malawi. It also operates one of the oldest ferries in the region, the MV Liemba which was built in 1915 during the German colonial rule.

Marine Services Company Limited passenger and cargo shipping company in Tanzania

Marine Services Company Limited (MSCL) is a Tanzanian company that operates ferries, cargo ships and tankers on three of the African Great Lakes, namely Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa. It provides services to neighbouring Burundi, DR Congo, Zambia and Malawi.

Tanzania Country in Africa

Tanzania officially the United Republic of Tanzania, is a country in East Africa within the African Great Lakes region. It borders Uganda to the north; Kenya to the northeast; Comoro Islands at the Indian Ocean to the east; Mozambique and Malawi to the south; Zambia to the southwest; and Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, is in north-eastern Tanzania.

Lake Victoria one of African Great Lakes

Lake Victoria is one of the African Great Lakes.


The busiest seaway in the world, the English Channel, connects Great Britain and mainland Europe, with ships sailing mainly to French ports, such as Calais, Dunkirk, Dieppe, Roscoff, Cherbourg-Octeville, Caen, St Malo and Le Havre. Ferries from Great Britain also sail to Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Ireland. Some ferries carry mainly tourist traffic, but most also carry freight, and some are exclusively for the use of freight lorries. In Britain, car-carrying ferries are sometimes referred to as RORO (roll-on, roll-off) for the ease by which vehicles can board and leave.

English Channel Arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France

The English Channel, also called simply the Channel, is the body of water that separates Southern England from northern France and links the southern part of the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. It is the busiest shipping area in the world.

Calais Subprefecture and commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Calais is a city and major ferry port in northern France in the department of Pas-de-Calais, of which it is a sub-prefecture. Although Calais is by far the largest city in Pas-de-Calais, the department's prefecture is its third-largest city of Arras. The population of the metropolitan area at the 2010 census was 126,395. Calais overlooks the Strait of Dover, the narrowest point in the English Channel, which is only 34 km (21 mi) wide here, and is the closest French town to England. The White Cliffs of Dover can easily be seen on a clear day from Calais. Calais is a major port for ferries between France and England, and since 1994, the Channel Tunnel has linked nearby Coquelles to Folkestone by rail.

Dunkirk Subprefecture and commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Dunkirk is a commune in Nord, a French department in northern France. It is the northernmost city in France, lying 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from the Belgian border. It has the third-largest French harbour. The population of the commune at the 2016 census was 91,412.

MS Silja Symphony leaving Helsinki via the Kustaanmiekka strait to the Baltic Sea. Silja Symphony Kustaanmiekka.jpg
MS Silja Symphony leaving Helsinki via the Kustaanmiekka strait to the Baltic Sea.

The busiest single ferry route in terms of the number of departures is across the northern part of Øresund, between Helsingborg, Scania, Sweden and Elsinore, Denmark. Before the Øresund bridge was opened in July 2000, car and "car and train" ferries departed up to seven times every hour. This has since been reduced, but a car ferry still departs from each harbor every 15 minutes during daytime. [1] The route is around 2.2 nautical miles (4.1 km; 2.5 mi) and the crossing takes 22 minutes. Today, all ferries on this route are constructed so that they do not need to turn around in the harbors. This also means that the ferries lack stems and sterns, since the vessels sail in both directions. Starboard and port-side are dynamic, depending on the direction the ferry sails. Despite the short crossing, the ferries are equipped with restaurants (on three out of four ferries), cafeterias, and kiosks. Passengers without cars often make a double or triple return journey in the restaurants; for this, a single journey ticket is sufficient. Passenger and bicycle passenger tickets are inexpensive compared with longer routes.

Ro-Pax Festos Palace in Piraeus, Greece HSF Festos Palace wisnia6522.jpg
Ro-Pax Festos Palace in Piraeus, Greece

Large cruiseferries sail in the Baltic Sea between Finland, Åland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Saint Petersburg, Russia and from Italy to Sardinia, Corsica, Spain and Greece. In many ways, these ferries are like cruise ships, but they can also carry hundreds of cars on car decks. Besides providing passenger and car transport across the sea, Baltic Sea cruise-ferries are a popular tourist destination unto themselves, with multiple restaurants, nightclubs, bars, shops and entertainment on board. Also many smaller ferries operate on domestic routes in Finland, Sweden and Estonia.

The south-west and southern parts of the Baltic Sea has several routes mainly for heavy traffic and cars. The ferry routes of Trelleborg-Rostock, Trelleborg-Travemünde, Trelleborg-Świnoujście, Gedser-Rostock, Gdynia-Karlskrona, and Ystad-Świnoujście are all typical transports ferries. On the longer of these routes, simple cabins are available. The Rødby-Puttgarden route also transports day passenger trains between Copenhagen and Hamburg, and on the Trelleborg-Sassnitz route, it also has capacities for the daily night trains between Berlin and Malmö.

In Istanbul, ferries connect the European and Asian shores of Bosphorus, as well as Princes Islands and nearby coastal towns. In 2014 İDO transported 47 million passengers, the largest ferry system in the world. [2]

North America

MV Spirit of Vancouver Island en route to Tsawwassen from Swartz Bay. Route 1 is BC Ferries busiest route. Spirit of vi 3.jpg
MV Spirit of Vancouver Island en route to Tsawwassen from Swartz Bay. Route 1 is BC Ferries busiest route.

Due to the numbers of large freshwater lakes and length of shoreline in Canada, various provinces and territories have ferry services.

BC Ferries operates the third largest ferry service in the world which carries travellers between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland on the country's west coast. This ferry service operates to other islands including the Gulf Islands and Haida Gwaii. In 2015, BC Ferries carried more than 8 million vehicles and 20 million passengers. [3]

Canada's east coast has been home to numerous inter- and intra-provincial ferry and coastal services, including a large network operated by the federal government under CN Marine and later Marine Atlantic. Private and publicly owned ferry operations in eastern Canada include Marine Atlantic, serving the island of Newfoundland, as well as Bay, NFL, CTMA, Coastal Transport, and STQ. Canadian waters in the Great Lakes once hosted numerous ferry services, but these have been reduced to those offered by Owen Sound Transportation and several smaller operations. There are also several commuter passenger ferry services operated in major cities, such as Metro Transit in Halifax, Toronto Island ferries in Toronto and SeaBus in Vancouver.

The MV Spokane sailing from Edmonds to Kingston, one of ten routes served by Washington State Ferries. Washington State Ferry 6415.JPG
The MV Spokane sailing from Edmonds to Kingston, one of ten routes served by Washington State Ferries.

Washington State Ferries operates the most extensive ferry system in the continental United States and the second largest in the world by vehicles carried, with ten routes on Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca serving terminals in Washington and Vancouver Island. [4] In 2016, Washington State Ferries carried 10.5 million vehicles and 24.2 million riders in total. [5]

The Alaska Marine Highway System provides service between Bellingham, Washington and various towns and villages throughout Southeast and Southwest Alaska, including crossings of the Gulf of Alaska. AMHS provides affordable access to many small communities with no road connection or airport.

The Staten Island Ferry in New York City, sailing between the boroughs of Manhattan and Staten Island, is the nation's single busiest ferry route by passenger volume. Unlike riders on many other ferry services, Staten Island Ferry passengers do not pay any fare to ride it. New York City also has a network of smaller ferries, or water taxis, that shuttle commuters along the Hudson River from locations in New Jersey and Northern Manhattan down to the midtown, downtown and Wall Street business centers. Several ferry companies also offer service linking midtown and lower Manhattan with locations in the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn, crossing the city's East River. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in February 2015 that city would begin an expanded Citywide Ferry Service some time in 2017 linking heretofore relatively isolated communities such as Manhattan's Lower East Side, Soundview in The Bronx, Astoria and the Rockaways in Queens and such Brooklyn neighborhoods as Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, and Red Hook with existing ferry landings in Lower Manhattan and Midtown Manhattan.

The New Orleans area also has many ferries in operation that carry both vehicles and pedestrians. Most notable is the Algiers Ferry. This service has been in continuous operation since 1827 and is one of the oldest operating ferries in North America.

Alaska Marine Highway System ferries MV LeConte and MV Kennicott near Juneau, Alaska LeConte Kennicott 30.jpg
Alaska Marine Highway System ferries MV LeConte and MV Kennicott near Juneau, Alaska

In New England, vehicle-carrying ferry services between mainland Cape Cod and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket are operated by The Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority, which sails year-round between Woods Hole and Vineyard Haven as well as Hyannis and Nantucket. Seasonal service is also operated from Woods Hole to Oak Bluffs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. As there are no bridges or tunnels connecting the islands to the mainland, The Steamship Authority ferries in addition to being the only method for transporting private cars to or from the islands, also serves as the only link by which heavy freight and supplies such as food and gasoline can be trucked to the islands. Additionally, Hy-Line Cruises operates high speed catamaran service from Hyannis to both islands, as well as traditional ferries, and several smaller operations run seasonal passenger only service primarily geared towards tourist day-trippers from other mainland ports, including New Bedford, (New Bedford Fast Ferry) Falmouth, (Island Queen ferry and Falmouth Ferry) and Harwich (Freedom Cruise Line). Ferries also bring riders and vehicles across Long Island Sound to such Connecticut cities as Bridgeport and New London, and to Block Island in Rhode Island from points on Long Island.

Transbay commuting in the San Francisco Bay Area was primarily ferry based until the advent of automobiles in the 1940s and most bridges in the area were built to supplant ferry services. By the 1970s, ferries were primarily used by tourists with Golden Gate Ferry, an organization under the ownership as the same governing body as the Golden Gate Bridge, left as the sole commute operator. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake prompted restoration of service to the East Bay. The modern ferry network is primarily under the authority of San Francisco Bay Ferry, connecting with cities as far as Vallejo. Tourist excursions are also offered by Blue & Gold Fleet and Red & White Fleet. A ferry serves Angel Island (which also accepts private craft). Alcatraz is served exclusively by ferry service administered by the National Park Service.

Until the completion of the Mackinac Bridge in the 1950s, ferries were used for vehicle transportation between the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, across the Straits of Mackinac in the United States. Ferry service for bicycles and passengers continues across the straits for transport to Mackinac Island, where motorized vehicles are almost completely prohibited. This crossing is made possible by three ferry lines, Arnold Transit Company, Shepler's Ferry, and Star Line Ferry.

Mexico also has ferry services run by Baja Ferries that connect La Paz located on the Baja California Peninsula with Mazatlán and Topolobampo. There are also passenger ferries that run from Playa del Carmen to the island of Cozumel.

North Carolina is home to the second-largest ferry system in the United States.


MS Spirit of Tasmania II at port in Devonport, Australia. Devonport-Spirit-Of-Tasmania-2008.jpg
MS Spirit of Tasmania II at port in Devonport, Australia.

In Australia, two Spirit of Tasmania ferries carry passengers and vehicles 450 kilometres (280 mi) across Bass Strait, the body of water that separates Tasmania from the Australian mainland, often under turbulent sea conditions. These run overnight but also include day crossings in peak time. Both ferries are based in the northern Tasmanian port city of Devonport and sail to Melbourne

The Manly Ferry 'MV Freshwater' Sydney Ferry Freshwater.jpg
The Manly Ferry 'MV Freshwater'

The double-ended Freshwater-class ferry cuts an iconic shape as it makes its way up and down Sydney Harbour New South Wales, Australia between Manly and Circular Quay

In New Zealand, ferries connect Wellington in the North Island with Picton in the South Island, linking New Zealand's two main islands. The 92 kilometres (57 mi) route takes two hundred[ citation needed ] hours, and is run by two companies – government-owned Interislander, and independent Bluebridge.


A ferry underway in Penang, Malaysia. FERRY RAWA.JPG
A ferry underway in Penang, Malaysia.
The inside of a passenger ferry on route between Shikoku and Kyushu. The number of actual seats is usually very limited on Japanese passenger ferries, with larger spaces dedicated to tatami or broadloom areas where passengers can sit or lie down Yawatahama ferry.jpg
The inside of a passenger ferry on route between Shikoku and Kyushu. The number of actual seats is usually very limited on Japanese passenger ferries, with larger spaces dedicated to tatami or broadloom areas where passengers can sit or lie down

In Hong Kong, Star Ferry carry passengers across Victoria Harbour. Other carriers ferry travellers between Hong Kong Island and outlying islands like Cheung Chau, Lantau Island and Lamma Island.

The Malaysian state of Penang is home to the oldest ferry service in the country. This service, now renamed Rapid Ferry, connects the Raja Tun Uda Ferry Terminal at Weld Quay in George Town on Penang Island with the Sultan Abdul Halim Ferry Terminal in Butterworth on Peninsular Malaysia. It has also become a tourist attraction among foreigners.

Batamfast Fast Ferry transport passengers from Singapore's HarbourFront Centre and Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal to Indonesia's Batam Centre Ferry Terminal.


India's ro-ro ferry service between Ghogha and Dahej was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 22 October 2017. It aims to connect South Gujarat and Saurashtra currently separated by 360 km of roadway to 31 km of ferry service. It is a part of the larger Sagar Mala project. [6]

Water transport in Mumbai consists of ferries, hovercrafts, and catamarans, operated by various government agencies as well as private entities. The Kerala State Water Transport Department (SWTD), operating under the Ministry of Transport, Government of Kerala, India regulates the inland navigation systems in the Indian state of Kerala and provides inland water transport facilities. It stands for catering to the passenger and cargo traffic needs of the inhabitants of the waterlogged areas of the Districts of Alappuzha, Kottayam, Kollam, Ernakulam, Kannur and Kasargode. SWTD ferry service is also one of the most affordable modes to enjoy the beauty of the scenic Kerala backwaters.


Ferry designs depend on the length of the route, the passenger or vehicle capacity required, speed requirements and the water conditions the craft must deal with.


Ferry in Ontario (Manitoulin Island) vehicles load via the front and back of the ferry opening hull Ferrytobermory.jpg
Ferry in Ontario (Manitoulin Island) vehicles load via the front and back of the ferry opening hull

Double-ended ferries have interchangeable bows and sterns, allowing them to shuttle back and forth between two terminals without having to turn around. Well-known double-ended ferry systems include the BC Ferries, the Staten Island Ferry, Washington State Ferries, Star Ferry, several ferries on the North Carolina Ferry System, and the Lake Champlain Transportation Company. Most Norwegian fjord and coastal ferries are double-ended vessels. All ferries from southern Prince Edward Island to the mainland of Canada were double-ended. This service was discontinued upon completion of the Confederation Bridge. Some ferries in Sydney, Australia and British Columbia are also double-ended. In 2008, BC Ferries launched three of the largest double-ended ferries in the world.


Hydrofoils have the advantage of higher cruising speeds, succeeding hovercraft on some English Channel routes where the ferries now compete against the Eurotunnel and Eurostar trains that use the Channel Tunnel. Passenger-only hydrofoils also proved a practical, fast and relatively economical solution in the Canary Islands but were recently replaced by faster catamaran "high speed" ferries that can carry cars. Their replacement by the larger craft is seen by critics as a retrograde step given that the new vessels use much more fuel and foster the inappropriate use of cars [7] in islands already suffering from the impact of mass tourism.


Mark 3 SR.N4 hovercraft, Dover SRN4 Hovercraft Mountbatten Class.jpg
Mark 3 SR.N4 hovercraft, Dover

Hovercraft were developed in the 1960s and 1970s to carry cars. The largest was the massive SR.N4 which carried cars in its centre section with ramps at the bow and stern between England and France. The hovercraft was superseded by catamarans which are nearly as fast and are less affected by sea and weather conditions. Only one service now remains, a foot passenger service between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight run by Hovertravel.


Incat built Catamaran HSC Manannan entering Douglas, Isle of Man Hsc manannan.png
Incat built Catamaran HSC Manannan entering Douglas, Isle of Man

Since 1990 high speed Catamarans have revolutionised ferry services, replacing hovercraft, hydrofoils and conventional monohull ferries. In the 1990s there were a variety of builders, but the industry has consolidated to two builders of large vehicular ferries between 60 and 120 metres. Incat of Hobart, Tasmania favours a Wave-piercing hull to deliver a smooth ride, while Austal of Perth, Western Australia builds ships based on SWATH designs. Both these companies also compete in the smaller river ferry industry with a number of other ship builders.

Stena Line once operated the largest catamarans in the world, the Stena HSS class, between the United Kingdom and Ireland. These waterjet-powered vessels, displaced 19,638 tonnes, accommodating 375 passenger cars and 1,500 passengers. Other examples of these super-size catamarans are found in the Brittany Ferries fleet with the Normandie Express and the Normandie Vitesse.


Lorries preparing to unload from the Pont-Aven, the Brittany Ferries flagship Pont-Aven Car Deck.JPG
Lorries preparing to unload from the Pont-Aven , the Brittany Ferries flagship

Roll-on/roll-off ferries (RORO) are large conventional ferries named for the ease by which vehicles can board and leave.

Cruiseferry / RoPax

A cruiseferry is a ship that combines the features of a cruise ship with a roll-on/roll-off ferry. They are also known as RoPax for their combined Roll on/Roll Off and passenger design.

Fast RoPax ferry

MS Superfast XI Superfast XI.jpg
MS Superfast XI

Fast RoPax ferries are conventional ferries with a large garage intake and a relatively large passenger capacity, with conventional diesel propulsion and propellers that sail over 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph). Pioneering this class of ferries was Attica Group, when it introduced Superfast I between Greece and Italy in 1995 through its subsidiary company Superfast Ferries. Cabins, if existent, are much smaller than those on cruise ships.[ citation needed ]

Turntable ferry

Turntable ferry at Isle of Skye, Scotland Skye ferry scotland.jpg
Turntable ferry at Isle of Skye, Scotland

This type of ferry allows vehicles to load from the "side". The vehicle platform can be turned. When loading, the platform is turned sideways to allow sideways loading of vehicles. Then the platform is turned back, in line with the vessel, and the journey across water is made.

Pontoon ferry

The Lower Kingswear to Dartmouth ferry, Devon, England. The pontoon carries eight cars and is towed across the River Dart by a small tug. Two ropes connect the tug to the pontoon. Ferry.dartmouth.750pix.jpg
The Lower Kingswear to Dartmouth ferry, Devon, England. The pontoon carries eight cars and is towed across the River Dart by a small tug. Two ropes connect the tug to the pontoon.

Pontoon ferries carry vehicles across rivers and lakes and are widely used in less-developed countries with large rivers where the cost of bridge construction is prohibitive. One or more vehicles are carried on a pontoon with ramps at either end for vehicles to drive on and off. Cable ferries (next section) are usually pontoon ferries, but pontoon ferries on larger rivers are motorised and able to be steered independently like a boat.

Train ferry

Train and car ferry between Calabria and Sicily, Italy 101031 Italie sud 128.jpg
Train and car ferry between Calabria and Sicily, Italy

A train ferry is a ship designed to carry railway vehicles. Typically, one level of the ship is fitted with railway tracks, and the vessel has a door at either or both of the front and rear to give access to the wharves.

Foot ferry

Foot ferries are small craft used to ferry foot passengers, and often also cyclists, over rivers. These are either self-propelled craft or cable ferries. Such ferries are for example to be found on the lower River Scheldt in Belgium and in particular the Netherlands. Regular foot ferry service also exists in the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague, and across the Yarra River in Melbourne, Australia at Newport. Restored, expanded ferry service in the Port of New York and New Jersey uses boats for pedestrians only.

Cable ferry

One of several self-propelled cable ferries that cross the lower reaches of the Murray River in South Australia Small Mannum Ferry.jpg
One of several self-propelled cable ferries that cross the lower reaches of the Murray River in South Australia

Very short distances may be crossed by a cable or chain ferry, which is usually a pontoon ferry (see above), where the ferry is propelled along and steered by cables connected to each shore. Sometimes the cable ferry is human powered by someone on the boat. Reaction ferries are cable ferries that use the perpendicular force of the current as a source of power. Examples of a current propelled ferry are the four Rhine ferries in Basel, Switzerland. [8] Cable ferries may be used in fast-flowing rivers across short distances. With an ocean crossing of approximately 1900 metres, the cable ferry between Vancouver Island and Denman Island in British Columbia; is the longest one in the world.

Free ferries operate in some parts of the world, such as at Woolwich in London, England (across the River Thames); in Amsterdam, Netherlands (across the IJ waterway); along the Murray River in South Australia, and across many lakes in British Columbia. Many cable ferries operate on lakes and rivers in Canada, among them a cable ferry that charges a toll operates on the Rivière des Prairies between Laval-sur-le-Lac and Île Bizard in Quebec, Canada. In Finland there were 40 road ferries (cable ferries) in 2009, on lakes, rivers and on sea between islands.

Air ferries

In the 1950s and 1960s, travel on an "air ferry" was possible—airplanes, often ex-military, specially equipped to take a small number of cars in addition to foot passengers. These operated various routes including between the United Kingdom and Continental Europe. Companies operating such services included Channel Air Bridge, Silver City Airways, and Corsair.

The term is also applied to any "ferrying" by air, and is commonly used when referring to airborne military operations.


Drawbridge of the ferry lies on the ferry slip. This double sided ferry measures 74 m x 17.5 m (243 ft x 57 ft), and carries 2000 passengers with 60 cars Ferry loading.jpg
Drawbridge of the ferry lies on the ferry slip. This double sided ferry measures 74 m × 17.5 m (243 ft × 57 ft), and carries 2000 passengers with 60 cars

Ferries often dock at specialized facilities designed to position the boat for loading and unloading, called a ferry slip. If the ferry transports road vehicles or railway carriages there will usually be an adjustable ramp called an apron that is part of the slip. In other cases, the apron ramp will be a part of the ferry itself, acting as a wave guard when elevated and lowered to meet a fixed ramp at the terminus — a road segment that extends partially underwater or meet the ferry slip.


Gross tonnage

The world's largest ferries are typically those operated in Europe, with different vessels holding the record depending on whether length, gross tonnage or car vehicle capacity is the metric.


On 11 October 1811, inventor John Stevens' ship the Juliana, began operation as the first steam-powered ferry (service was between New York City, and Hoboken, New Jersey). [9]

The Elwell Ferry, a cable ferry in North Carolina, travels a distance of 110 yards (100 m), [10] shore to shore, with a travel time of five minutes. [11]

A contender as oldest ferry in continuous operation is the Mersey Ferry from Liverpool to Birkenhead, England. In 1150, the Benedictine Priory at Birkenhead was established. The monks used to charge a small fare to row passengers across the estuary. [12] In 1330, Edward III granted a charter to the Priory and its successors for ever: "the right of ferry there… for men, horses and goods, with leave to charge reasonable tolls". However, there may have been a short break following the Dissolution of the monasteries.

Another claimant as the oldest ferry service in continuous operation is the Rocky Hill - Glastonbury Ferry, running between the towns of Rocky Hill and Glastonbury, Connecticut. [13] Established in 1655, the ferry has run continuously since, only ceasing operation every winter when the river freezes over. A long running salt water ferry service is the Halifax/Dartmouth ferry, running between the cities of Halifax and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, which has run year-round since 1752, and is currently run by the region's transit authority, Metro Transit. [14] However, the Mersey Ferry predates it as the oldest salt water ferry.

Largest networks

Busiest networks


The gas turbine powered Luciano Federico L operated by Montevideo-based Buquebus, holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest car ferry in the world, in service between Montevideo, Uruguay and Buenos Aires, Argentina: its maximum speed, achieved in sea trials, was 60.2 knots (111.5 km/h; 69.3 mph). [22] It can carry 450 passengers and 52 cars along the 110-nautical-mile (200 km; 130 mi) route. [23]


Fast Ro-Pax ferries, like MS Star, have notable CO2 emissions. Tallink Star in 2013.JPG
Fast Ro-Pax ferries, like MS Star, have notable CO2 emissions.

The contributions of ferry travel to climate change have received less scrutiny than land and air transport, and vary considerably according to factors like speed and the number of passengers carried. Average carbon dioxide emissions by ferries per passenger-kilometre seem to be 0.12 kg (4.2 oz). [24] However, 18- knot (21 mph; 33 km/h) ferries between Finland and Sweden produce 0.221 kg (7.8 oz) of CO2, with total emissions equalling a CO2 equivalent of 0.223 kg (7.9 oz), while 24–27-knot (28–31 mph; 44–50 km/h) ferries between Finland and Estonia produce 0.396 kg (14.0 oz) of CO2 with total emissions equalling a CO2 equivalent of 0.4 kg (14 oz). [25]

With the price of oil at high levels, and with increasing pressure from consumers for measures to tackle global warming, a number of innovations for energy and the environment were put forward at the Interferry conference in Stockholm. According to the company Solar Sailor, hybrid marine power and solar wing technology are suitable for use with ferries, private yachts and even tankers. [26] Megawatt-class battery electric ferries operate in Scandinavia [27] , with several more scheduled for operation. [28]

Alternative fuels

Alternative fuels are becoming more widespread on ferries. The fastest passenger ferry in the world Buquebus, runs on LNG, while Sweden's Stena plans to operate its 1500-passenger ferries on methanol in 2015. [29] Both fuels reduce emissions considerably and replace costly diesel fuel.

Since 2015, Norwegian ferry company Norled has operated the electrical car ferry "MF Ampere" on the Lavik-Opedal connection on the E39 north of Bergen. The connection Anda-Lote, further north on the Norwegian west coast, will be the world's first connection served only by electrical car ferries. The first of the two ships, "MF Gloppefjord", was put into operation in January 2018. The owner, Fjord1, has commissioned a further seven battery-powered ferries to be in operation from 2020. [30]

A total of 60 battery powered car ferries are expected to be operational in Norway within 2021. [31]

The E-ferry Ellen E-ferry Ellen.2.JPG
The E-ferry Ellen


Since 15-08 2019 operated Ærø Municipality with the E-ferry Ellen between the southern danish ports of Fynshav to Søby, on the island of Ærø. The e-ferry is capable of carrying 30 vehicles and 200 passengers and is powered by a battery "with an unprecedented capacity" of 4.3  MWh (5,800  hp⋅h ).

The vessel can sail up to 22 nautical miles (25 mi; 41 km) between charges — seven times farther than previously possible for an e-ferry. It will now need to prove it can provide up to seven return trips per day. The European Union, which supported the project, aims to roll out 100 or more of these ferries by 2030.


The following notable maritime disasters involved ferries.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Merchant ship civilian boat or ship that transports cargo or carries passengers for hire

A merchant ship, merchant vessel, trading vessel, or merchantman is a watercraft that transports cargo or carries passengers for hire. This is in contrast to pleasure craft, which are used for personal recreation, and naval ships, which are used for military purposes.

Jadrolinija company

Jadrolinija is a Croatian sea shipping company. It is a state-owned company and its main mission is connecting Croatian islands to the mainland by operating regular passenger and cargo transport services. The company mainly operates car ferries on domestic routes along the Croatian coast, as well as international routes across the Adriatic Sea to Italy.

Red Funnel Ferry company operating routes between Southampton and the Isle of Wight

Red Funnel, formally the Southampton Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Company Limited, is a ferry company that carries passengers, vehicles and freight on routes between the English mainland and the Isle of Wight. High-speed foot passenger catamarans, known as Red Jets, run between Southampton and Cowes, while vehicle ferries run between Southampton and East Cowes.

Lake Victoria ferries

Lake Victoria ferries are motor ships for ferry services carrying freight and/or vehicles and/or passengers among Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya on Lake Victoria.

Incat manufacturer of large high-speed craft (HSC) catamarans

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Roll-on/roll-off vessels designed to carry wheeled cargo that are driven on and off the ship on their own wheels

Roll-on/roll-off ships are ferries designed to carry wheeled cargo, such as cars, trucks, semi-trailer trucks, trailers, and railroad cars, that are driven on and off the ship on their own wheels or using a platform vehicle, such as a self-propelled modular transporter. This is in contrast to lift-on/lift-off (LoLo) vessels, which use a crane to load and unload cargo.

Train ferry ferryboat carrying railroad cars onboard

A train ferry is a ship (ferry) designed to carry railway vehicles. Typically, one level of the ship is fitted with railway tracks, and the vessel has a door at the front and/or rear to give access to the wharves. In the United States, train ferries are sometimes referred to as "car ferries", as distinguished from "auto ferries" used to transport automobiles. The wharf has a ramp, and a linkspan or "apron", balanced by weights, that connects the railway proper to the ship, allowing for the water level to rise and fall with the tides.

Keller Ferry

The Keller Ferry or Clark Ferry, is a ferry crossing on Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake in the US state of Washington. The crossing carries State Route 21 between the Colville Indian Reservation in Ferry County and Clark in Lincoln County. The ferry has been in operation since the 1890s and under state control since 1930. During that time, five vessels have served the crossing, including the Martha S., which operated from 1948 to 2013, and the current ferry, the M/V Sanpoil.

Western Ferries

Western Ferries (Clyde) Ltd is a private ferry company with its headquarters in Hunters Quay, Scotland. It currently operates on the Firth of Clyde running a year-round, high-frequency vehicle carrying service between Hunters Quay near Dunoon and McInroy's Point on the outskirts of Gourock in Inverclyde.

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The Steamship Authority, officially The Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority (SSA), is the statutory regulatory body for all ferry operations to and from the islands from the Massachusetts mainland, as well as being an operator of ferry service from the mainland Cape Cod to the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, and the only ferry operator to carry automobiles to the islands. The Authority also operates several freight vessels, thus serving as the main link for shipping any commercial goods to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket that are not transported by air.

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HSC <i>Hai Xia Hao</i>

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Caledonian MacBrayne fleet

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Ferry transport in Queensland

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Hybrid ferries combine multiple sources of power, resulting in reductions in fossil fuel consumption, carbon emissions and other pollutants.

MV <i>Samish</i>

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Archipelago Philippine Ferries Corporation Philippine ferry company

Archipelago Philippine Ferries Corporation (APFC) is a ferry company based in Muntinlupa, Metro Manila, Philippines. It serves passenger and cargo routes serving select seaports in the Philippines with its fleet of catamaran Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) ferries. It also operates ports and terminals.



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