PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Eastern Shipbuilding Group launched a brand new boat on Friday afternoon; the vessel will be on its way to New York City in the next year.
Eastern Shipbuilding Group President, Joey D’Isernia, says this boat, which will serve as a Staten Island Ferry, holds particularly special significance for the company and for the community for more reasons than one.
“Everybody knows the Staten Island Ferries,” he said. “A lot of people have ridden them, you’ve seen them in movies, so it’s going to be neat.”
It is one of three ferries the company is building for Staten Island Ferry. The boat, named the SSG Michael H. Ollis, is named after a fallen American hero; a soldier in the U.S. Army who served in Afghanistan and was killed while saving the life of another soldier.
Governor Ron DeSantis, who attended the launch, said in a speech, “that is heroism.”
“I think it’s fitting that we can recognize an American hero in a great military community like Northwest Florida,” said DeSantis. “I know the people here honor our veterans and honor those particularly that make the ultimate sacrifice.”
“He represents everything that’s special about the military,” said Kevin Kellett, a U.S. Air Force Veteran attending the launch.
The vessel also symbolizes strength in the face of extreme difficulty, as Hurricane Michael made landfall in the middle of the building process.
“It’s been tough, we’ve overcome a lot of challenges as a company, as a community,” said D’Isernia.
“There were times where things were harder,” said Renee Aldrich, a Naval Architect with Eastern. “I think it’s proof that we persevere.”
Vice President of Operations for the company, Marvin Serna, had similar sentiment.
“It means a lot for the community,” he said. “Brings a lot of work into the area, and these guys are very proud of what they do here.”
All of the hard work led to a successful launch of the SSG Michael H. Ollis.
“I’ve been doing this for about 37 years, and I’ve launched several vessels,” said Serna. “This is one of the smoothest ones that I’ve seen.”
The vessel has months of internal work left but by this time next year, it will be a piece of the Panhandle, serving as a reminder of resilience in New York City.
Eastern Shipbuilding Group is working to get the next ferry ready to launch in six to eight months.