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
, is sometimes called a water bus
or water 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 bridge
s or tunnel
s. 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.
In ancient times
The profession of the ferryman is embodied in Greek mythology
, the boatman who transported souls across the River Styx
to the Underworld
Speculation that a pair of ox
en 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 Experiment (horse powered boat)
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
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
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
transport passengers from Singapore
's HarbourFront Centre
and Tanah Merah
Ferry Terminal to Indonesia
's Batam Centre Ferry Terminal
, Sekupang Ferry Terminal
, Waterfront Ferry Terminal
, Tanjung Balai Ferry Terminal
and Sri Bintan Pura Ferry Terminal
In the Philippines
, the Philippine Nautical Highway System
forms the backbone of the nationwide transport system by integrating ports
systems. The system has three main routes. Another known ferry service is the Pasig River Ferry Service
, which is the only water-based transportation in Metro Manila
. This system cruises the Pasig River
ferry service between Ghogha
was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi
on 22 October 2017. It aims to connect South Gujarat
currently separated by 360 km of roadway to 31 km of ferry service. It is a part of the larger Sagar Mala project
Water transport in Mumbai
consists of ferries, hovercraft, 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
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
. SWTD ferry service is also one of the most affordable modes to enjoy the beauty of the scenic Kerala backwaters
The busiest seaway in the world, the English Channel
, connects Great Britain and mainland Europe, with ships sailing from the UK ports of Dover
, Poole, Portsmouth
to French ports, such as Calais
, St Malo
and Le Havre
. The busiest ferry route to France is the Dover to Calais crossing with approximately 9,168,000 passengers using the service in 2018. 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.
The busiest single ferry route in terms of the number of departures is across the northern part of Øresund
, between Helsingborg
. 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. The route is around 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.
sail in the Baltic Sea
and Saint Petersburg
and from Italy
. In many ways, these ferries are like cruise ship
s, 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
, and Ystad
are all typical ''transports'' ferries. On the longer of these routes, simple cabins are available. The Rødby
route also transports day passenger trains between Copenhagen
, and on the Trelleborg
route, it also has capacities for the daily night trains between Berlin
, 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.
The world's shortest ferry line is the Ferry Lina
. It takes around 20–25 seconds and is hand powered.
Due to the numbers of large freshwater lakes and length of shoreline in Canada, various provinces and territories have ferry services.
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.
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
, 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
, Toronto Island ferries
in Toronto and SeaBus
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
in Washington and Vancouver Island. In 2016, Washington State Ferries carried 10.5 million vehicles and 24.2 million riders in total.
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
, 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
in The Bronx
and the Rockaways
and such Brooklyn
neighborhoods as Bay Ridge
, Sunset Park
, and Red Hook
with existing ferry landings in Lower Manhattan
and Midtown Manhattan
. This service was finally launched as NYC Ferry
in May, 2017.
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.
In New England, vehicle-carrying ferry services between mainland Cape Cod
and the islands of Martha's Vineyard
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
. 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-tripper
s 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
and the Upper Peninsulas
, 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
A ferry service runs between Milwaukee, Wisconsin
and Muskegon, Michigan
operated by Lake Express
. Another ferry SS Badger
operates between Manitowoc, Wisconsin
and Ludington, Michigan
. Both cross Lake Michigan
Mexico has ferry services run by Baja Ferries
that connect La Paz
located on the Baja California Peninsula with Mazatlán
. Passenger ferries also run from Playa del Carmen
to the island of Cozumel
North Carolina is home to the second-largest ferry system in the United States.
In Australia, two Spirit of Tasmania
ferries carry passengers and vehicles 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 double-ended Freshwater-class ferry cuts an iconic shape as it makes its way up and down Sydney Harbour New South Wales
and Circular Quay
In New Zealand, ferries connect Wellington
in the North Island
in the South Island
, linking New Zealand's two main islands. The route is , and is run by two companies – government-owned Interislander
, and independent Bluebridge
, who say the trip takes three and half hours.
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.
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.
s 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 in islands already suffering from the impact of mass tourism.
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
Since 1990 high speed catamaran
s have revolutionised ferry services, replacing hovercraft
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
, Tasmania favours a Wave-piercing hull
to deliver a smooth ride, while Austal
, 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.
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.
ferries (RORO) are large conventional ferries named for the ease by which vehicles can board and leave.
Cruiseferry / RoPax
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
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 . 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.
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.
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
are usually pontoon ferries, but pontoon ferries on larger rivers are motorised and able to be steered independently like a boat.
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 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
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.
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. 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
and Île Bizard
, Canada. In Finland there were 40 road ferries (cable ferries) in 2009, on lakes, rivers and on sea between islands.
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.
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
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
The Elwell Ferry
, a cable ferry
in North Carolina
, travels a distance of ,
shore to shore, with a travel time of five minutes.
A contender as oldest ferry in continuous operation is the Mersey Ferry
, England. In 1150, the Benedictine Priory
was established. The monks used to charge a small fare to row passengers across the estuary. 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
. 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
, Nova Scotia
, which has run year-round since 1752, and is currently run by the region's transit authority, Metro Transit
. However, the Mersey Ferry predates it as the oldest salt water ferry.
– 21 vessels serving around 300 ports of call in the Stockholm archipelago
* Istanbul Ferry Network
– 87 vessels serving 86 ports of call in and around the Bosporus
of Istanbul, Turkey
* BC Ferries
– 36 vessels serving 47 ports of call along the west coast of British Columbia, Canada
, carrying 22.3 million passengers annually.
* Caledonian MacBrayne
– 31 vessels serving 50 ports of call along the west coast of Scotland
, carrying 1.43 million passengers annually.
* Sydney Ferries
– 31 vessels serving 36 ports of call in Port Jackson
(Sydney Harbour), carrying 15.3 million passengers annually.
* Washington State Ferries
– 28 vessels serving 20 ports of call around Puget Sound
of Washington, United States
, carrying 24.2 million passengers annually.
* Metrolink Queensland
– 21 vessels serving 26 ports of call along the Brisbane River
in Brisbane, Australia
, carrying 2.7 million passengers annually.
* Société des traversiers du Québec
* Washington State Ferries
– 24.2 million passengers annually.
* Staten Island Ferry
in New York City
– 23.9 million passengers annually; busiest one line ferry in the world.
* BC Ferries
– 22.3 million passengers annually.
* Star Ferry
in Hong Kong
– 19.7 million passengers annually.
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
and Buenos Aires
: its maximum speed, achieved in sea trials, was . It can carry 450 passengers and 52 cars along the route.
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 . However, ferries between Finland and Sweden produce of CO2
, with total emissions equalling a CO2
equivalent of , while ferries between Finland and Estonia produce of CO2
with total emissions equalling a CO2
equivalent of .
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 yacht
s and even tankers.
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. Both fuels reduce emissions considerably and replace costly diesel fuel.
Megawatt-class battery electric ferries
operate in Scandinavia, with several more scheduled for operation. As of 2017, the world's biggest purely electric ferry was the , which operates on the Helsingør–Helsingborg ferry route
across the Øresund
. The ferry weights 8414 tonnes, and has an electric storage capacity of more than 4 MWh.
Since 2015, Norwegian ferry company Norled
has operated e-ferry on the Lavik-Opedal connection on the E39 north of Bergen. Further north on the Norwegian west coast, the connection between Anda and Lote will be the world's first route served only by e-ferries. The first of two ships, MF ''Gloppefjord'', was put into service in January 2018, followed by MF ''Eidsfjord''. The owner, Fjord1
, has commissioned a further seven battery-powered ferries to be in operation from 2020. A total of 60 battery powered car ferries are expected to be operational in Norway by 2021.
Since 15 August 2019, Ærø Municipality
have operated between the southern Danish
ports of Fynshav
, 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 . The vessel can sail up to between charges – seven times further 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.
* – 852 deaths
* – 193 deaths
* – 159 deaths
* – 4,386 deaths
* MV ''Namyoug-Ho''
* MV ''Seohae''
* MV ''Sewo''l
– 304 deaths
* – 53 deaths
* Greycliffe disaster
– 40 deaths
* Chain boat
* Electric boat
* List of ferry operators
* Punt (boat)
* Sea tractor
* Transporter bridge
* "''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).
"Off Ferries, New And Old", May 1931, Popular SciencePhotography of European locations visitable by ferry