Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry has tapped Moran Iron Works in Onaway, located southeast of Cheboygan, to build the company’s sixth and largest commercial ferry — a $3.8 million undertaking.
“The idea of building a climate-controlled ferry for our customers right here in Michigan — instead of sending the work elsewhere — really appealed to us,” says Bill Shepler, CEO of Shepler’s. “As a third-generation family business, we’re focused on giving back to the region that has been so good to us.”
The 85-foot, all-aluminum ferry — to be christened “Miss Margy,” after Shepler’s mother — is scheduled to carry its first passengers in July 2015. It will include an air-conditioned cabin, as well as a ventilation system to remove interior condensation from windows, improving the view for passengers during inclement weather.
“An all-aluminum hull, three of the most modern and powerful marine engines on the Great Lakes, along with the most advanced cabin comforts, make this project sophisticated and challenging,” says Tom Moran, CEO of Moran Iron Works. “This provides thousands of man hours of work to northeast Michigan and demonstrates the Shepler family’s commitment to providing jobs for our communities.”
He references the fact that Presque Isle County’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.9 percent in October, according to the Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. Only six of the state’s 83 counties had worse jobless rates.
Pre-production processing and planning are already underway. The keel of the 281-passenger ferry will be laid in mid-January and the hull completed over the next four months. The vessel will have a top speed of 40 mph.
The two companies have collaborated in the past on modifications to the fleet, which includes five passenger ferries and one cargo vessel.
“For this project, we liked the idea of watching it being built and having a say in how it was being built,” Shepler says. “This may be Moran’s first ferry, but they are so particular in what they do that there was no question in our minds that this was the right way to go.”