Christening of the Elizabeth River Ferry IV

Hampton Roads Transit fired confetti cannons and broke a bottle of sparkling water across the bow railing of its new Elizabeth River ferry on Friday, July 14 to make the official acceptance of its latest vessel.

The ship christening brought out dignitaries and residents from Norfolk and Portsmouth to celebrate the occasion of a new addition to HRT’s popular ferry service.

“The Elizabeth River Ferry is the most convenient, enjoyable way to go from Downtown Norfolk to Olde Towne Portsmouth and beyond. Today, we have carried more than 10 million tourists and commuters for the 10-minute trip across the main stem of the Elizabeth River.”
— William Harrell, president and CEO of Hampton Roads Transit

HRT’s existing ferries are becoming too expensive to maintain. The James C. Echols, constructed in 1982, the Elizabeth River Ferry II, built in 1986, and the Elizabeth River Ferry III in 1990, are all requiring continual structural and mechanical repairs to keep them in compliance with United State Coast Guard regulations. The new ferry, Elizabeth River Ferry IV, is part of a $7 million contract to eventually replace the entire fleet of three. This is part of HRT’s initiatives to reduce operating costs and improve the customer experience.

In addition to greater fuel efficiency and a cleaner running set of Volvo engines, the new ferry has a “drive-by-wire” design that relies far more on electronics than its predecessors. Vessel captains have a bit more room in the pilothouse, while tinted windows help keep water glare to a minimum.

The ferry is rated to carry 150 passengers and crew, like the existing ones, but it also has two-man hatches on the port and starboard sides that allow faster loading and unloading. The older ferries have one, and that’s a hassle during major events when the ferry must first unload all passengers and then load them up again.

Ferry service has surged in the last few months with over 67,000 riders in June, approximately 22,000 more riders than June of last year. This can be contributed to the beautiful weather and the recent opening of Norfolk’s Waterside District. HRT is also excited that the City of Portsmouth has approved money to revitalize Portside. This will likely include a 5,000-square foot open air pavilion on the half-acre site. Construction could begin as early as the spring of 2018.

If you haven’t had a chance to ride on the new ferry yet, be sure to do so. It is easy to spot with the red, white and blue bunting. We look forward to our next new ferry arriving sometime late next month.