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New York ferry contractor struggling to remain afloat

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One company that helped the city meet its ambitious deadline is now owed $800,000, they say

NYC Ferry

Despite a somewhat choppy start, the NYC Ferry has proved to be a wild success thus far. But the ferries have not been quite such a hit for some of the people that built them.

One of the shipyards that’s responsible for 10 of the city’s boats is now in such poor financial straits that it may go bankrupt, the New York Times writes. The owner of a Virginia-based company that provided much of the labor at the shipyard to help meet the city’s deadlines told the paper he’s owed nearly $800,000, and that city officials are to blame for the lack of payment.

The owner of that company, Nick Beaver, said he was invited to join the project by an exec at Hornblower, the company hired to create and operate the city’s fleet. According to the article, Hornblower “oversaw every aspect of the ferry construction at Horizon Shipbuilding’s yard in Bayou La Batre” in Alabama. And when the shipyard couldn’t keep up with the city’s schedule, Beaver, at Horblower’s request, agreed to triple the number of workers he sent to the shipyard.

It became clear that all was not well at Horizon, and in July, the shipyard’s owner Travis R. Short notified NYC officials that he was losing money on the operation and might be forced into bankruptcy. That didn’t stop Short from finishing the 10 boats, though. “We were honored to do our part so that Mayor de Blasio’s vision of a low-cost, reliable ferry system for New Yorkers could be fulfilled,” Short told the Times.

Horizon then set to work building six more ferries for forthcoming routes but Hornblower stopped work on those boats, recalling some of the parts, and reassigning the contract to a different shipbuilder, Metal Shark, in Louisiana. Meanwhile, Hornblower sued Horizon in circuit court last month for failure to complete the contract.

According to Short, part of Horizon’s troubles may be due to their pricing: court documents show Horizon agreed to build the boats for about $2.6 million per ferry—too little, he says now. Metal Shark, the Louisiana competitor, charges around $3 million each. Those extra $400,000 “made all the difference,” Short told the Times.

None of that helps Beaver, though. When he learned Horizon was near financial ruin, he pulled the last of his workers off the job. “You just built 10 ferries for these people,” he told the Times he recalled thinking. “You should be rolling in the dough.”