Ferry Vessels 

Vessels by State

A total of 756 vessels make up the 2019 U.S. ferry fleet, of which 94.0 percent were reported as in-service.  Out of the vessel count, 13 are utilized by two different ferry operations leaving 743 unique vessels. The largest number of in service vessels reported by state are 92 and 75 vessels, reported by New York and Massachusetts, respectively.  

Number of Vessels by Ownership and Operation

A ferry vessel can have its ownership and operation reported as private, public, or a combination of both.  Of the reported vessels, the majority (52 percent) are privately owned and operated.  Another nearly 36 percent are publicly owned and operated. 

What Vessels Transport

The NCFO asks whether a vessel carries passengers, vehicles, and/or freight, of which 96.4 percent of vessels reported.  The results show that the nearly all of the ferry vessels carry passengers with 98.5 percent reporting carrying passengers. Additionally 37.8 percent carry vehicles and 17.4 percent carry freight.

A venn diagram of how many vessels carry a combination of passengers, cargo and freight

While the vast majority of ferries carry passengers, ferries also carry vehicles and freight.
Of the 676 reported passenger vessels, 37.2 percent also carried vehicles and 17.0 percent also carried freight.  A total of 12.4 percent of reported vessels carried passengers, vehicles, and freight.
A majority of vessels (58.7 percent) only carried a single type of passengers or cargo. Of these, it was most common among passenger ferries. While 57.4 percent of passenger ferries carried only passengers, less than a percent of all ferries carrying vehicles or freight only carried vehicles or freight.

Vessel Characteristics

Vessel capacity, age, and speed are vessel characteristics collected by the NCFO. 
  • The average capacity on a passenger vessel is 309 persons, the median passenger capacity is 149, and the maximum is 5,200.
  • The average capacity of vehicle carrying vessels is 39 vehicles.  The median vehicle capacity is 25 and the maximum capacity is 202 vehicles.
  • The average operating speed of the reported vessels is 13.5 knots.  The median speed is 12 knots, and the maximum is 36 knots.
  • The average age of the reported vessels is 27 years, the median age is 23 years, and the oldest vessel is 107 years.

Vessel Fuel Source

Of the 688 (91.0 percent) vessels that reported on fuel source, the data showed that diesel fuel is still the most widely popular.  In addition to 598 vessels that used diesel and gasoline fuels, 20 vessels were using bio-diesel, 7 vessels used a diesel/electric hybrid, and 6 vessels used electricity. 

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For questions about this data or its use, please contact us at: ferry@dot.gov