Fast Ferry failure: Timeline of Rochester’s doomed vessel

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Saturday marked the 13 year anniversary of the failed Fast Ferry’s final departure from the Port of Rochester.

The relationship between Rochester and its Fast Ferry began on September 19, 2001 when City Council authorized an agreement with the company CATS to operate a ferry service from Rochester to Toronto.

It would take another two and a half years before the ferry would actually grace Lake Ontario waters.

On April 1, 2004, what many believed to be a cruel April Fool’s joke, while the ferry was en-route from Australia where it was built, it collided with a pier in New York City.

Finally, on April 27, 2004, the Fast Ferry arrived in Rochester and thousands turned out to welcome the ship and crew.

The service started on June 17th of that year, but rough waters were ahead.

CATS abruptly shut it down just three months later, on September 7th, citing several reasons for its failure.

Two months later then-Mayor of Rochester Bill Johnson announced the city would buy the ferry and operate it as an authority.

On December 21, 2004, City Council approved The Rochester Fast Ferry, LLC and bought the boat for $32 million at auction on February 28, 2005.

The company Bay Ferries was hired to operate the boat in April, and they started up service shortly thereafter with the first voyage coming on June 30, 2005 — with 590 passengers on its inaugural trip.

It was smooth-sailing for the month of July, but in August, it was the beginning of the end. The ferry hit a gangway in Toronto and sustained some minor damage.

As summer came to a close, ridership decline and the schedule was cut back.

On October 26, 2005 it was revealed that the Fast Ferry lost $4.2 million in its short summer season. The last trip came December 12, 2005.

Two days after, Mayor Johnson announced a plan to borrow $11.5 million to keep the boat going in 2006 and City Council passed the legislation.

However, once in office, new Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy shut down the service for good on January 10, 2006.

On May 3rd of that year, the boat was sold to a British Compnay called Euroferries, but the ship sat as no money came.

A few months later on July 27, an audit by the New York State Comptroller’s Office stated the Johnson administration failed to protect taxpayer dollars, a claim the ex-mayor vehemently denied.

Later that year, on December 21, 2006, the Fast Ferry sailed out of the Port of Rochester, never to return.

For more information, local historian Dick Halsey wrote an in-depth account of the Fast Ferry’s doomed Rochester run, and more on what happened to it after it departed from the Flower City for the final time.

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