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Fraser returns to building with ferry project

The rendering by Elliott Bay Design Group shows the ferry that will be built at Fraser Shipyard starting this fall for a 2019 delivery to Miller Boat Line in Ohio. Submitted photo

Fraser Shipyards announced it was selected to build a new 26-car ferry for Miller Boat Line, which operates ferries that run from northern Ohio's Catawba Island Township to South Bass Island and Middle Bass Island, two of Lake Erie's most popular recreation destinations.

The new all-steel ferry will be 140 feet long and 38.5 feet wide. It will be named the Mary Ann Market, in honor of the late matriarch of the family that owns Miller Boat Line. The ferry will have drive-on-drive-off capability and will join Miller Boat Line's four other ferries.

"We are excited and honored to have been selected for this project," said James Farkas, president of Fraser Industries Inc., the parent company of Fraser Shipyards. "We have a long tradition of building Great Lakes vessels at Fraser, including car ferries. We are proud to be Miller Boat Line's partner. We look forward to delivering a modern vessel that meets all of their needs."

The last vessel of this magnitude built at Fraser was the Island Queen car ferry, which still runs between Bayfield and Madeline Island. That vessel was completed in 1966. Designed by marine architect Walter W. Haertel, the 71-foot motor vessel can carry up to 14 cars and 149 passengers. The Island Queen is powered by a 525-horsepower Caterpillar diesel engine, turning a four-bladed propeller that measures 54 inches in diameter with a 38-inch pitch. This power makes the "Queen" a capable ice breaker in the late season when she is called upon to break up to 8 inches of solid ice. This added power also makes her the fastest vessel in the fleet, with a top speed of 11.5 knots, or 13.2 miles per hour.

Fraser has built a small tug and several barges in the interim, but has become mostly a shipyard for repairs and vessel enhancements such as engine replacement projects, hull fixes and lengthening projects.

The Miller Boat Line ferry will have enhanced propulsion and maneuverability, a fully accessible main deck cabin and restroom, and the ability to carry 20 percent more cargo than Miller Boat Line's largest current vessel.

Fraser will start building the new ferry this fall in modules, which workers then will assemble. When the new ferry is completed in 2019, Fraser will deliver it from Superior to Put-in-Bay, Ohio.

"We chose Fraser due to their enduring high quality, integrity, value and with consideration of recommendations from industry professionals including marine surveyors, lake captains and engineers," Miller Boat Line President Billy Market said.