Gemini, WETA’s First New Ferry, Reports for Duty

The San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) recently announced the arrival of its first new vessel.

WETA’s new ferry Gemini left Whidbey Island, WA on November 24th and arrived in her new Bay Area home midday November 25th. Photo courtesy of WETA

Published: December, 2008 

Named Gemini, the 149-passenger ship will launch WETA’s new ferry fleet and is expected to be put into use daily on one or two bay area commuter ferry runs. It will also be available for use as a spare vessel in case of temporary disruption of transit service or damage to the Bay Area highways and bridges. WETA is planning a series of activities to celebrate the arrival of Gemini, including an Open House for the public on Friday, December 12 at the San Francisco Ferry Terminal, Gate E from 1:30 – 3:30 pm.

WETA Board Chairperson Charlene Haught Johnson was elated at news of the ship’s arrival. The arrival and launch of Gemini is one of our proudest moments and culminates seven years of planning, fundraising and reaching consensus with environmental and other stakeholders. This partnership will enable WETA to build a Ferry system with the highest level of reliability, passenger comfort and safety in an environmentally responsible fashion, Johnson said.

Gemini set sail from Whidbey Island, Washington, on November 24, where she was constructed by two Washington state boat builders—Nichols Brothers Boat Builders (NBBB) and Kvichak Marine Industries. She passed under the San Francisco Bay Bridge on November 25 on her way to Alameda, where Bay Ship and Yacht Company will be performing a haulout for hull cleaning and final survey before Gemini is put into service.

Crediting the Bay Area’s innovative mindset, Mary Frances Culnane, WETA’s Marine Engineering Manager, commented, Local support for ferries allowed WETA to push the technology envelope. The result is a vessel that is the most environmentally responsible ferry boat ever built, surpassing WETA’s emission mandate of 85 percent better than EPA emission standards for Tier II (2007) marine engines. Other innovative measures to protect the bay and marine life include low-wake, low-wash hulls, solar panels, operating on a blend of biodiesel and Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel fuel, and forward searching sonar for avoiding whale strikes. Gemini also includes space for 34 bicycles.

Gemini and her sister ship, Pisces, which will follow in March 2009, are being built at a cost of $16 million under one contract with the Nichols Brothers/Kvichak Boat Building Team. The total cost of the first two vessels is being paid with local toll-bridge funds. Kvichak is also building two additional 199-passenger vessels for WETA that will be delivered in late 2009. In total, these four vessels will eventually be put into service on either the new South San Francisco Ferry Route or the proposed Berkeley/Albany ferry route, and will greatly improve the ability of waterborne transit to move people in the aftermath of a disaster.  

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