Eastern Shipbuilding

Eastern Shipbuilding launches first of Staten Island ferries
Posted on 12/29/2019
New ShipThe long-sought expansion into Gulf County of Eastern Shipbuilding could happen before the end of the year, according to county officials.

The SSG Michael H. Ollis was launched recently from Eastern Shipbuilding facilities in Bay County, with Gov. Ron DeSantis and other dignitaries on hand.

“Florida has long held a strong partnership with Eastern Shipbuilding Group which is one of the leading economic drivers and employers in Northwest Florida, something I know this community is very proud of,” said DeSantis.

What kind of vessel the Ollis is was important to Gulf County.

The SSG Michael H. Ollis is an Ollis Class double-ended 4,500 passenger ferry under construction for the City of New York Department of Transportation Staten Island Ferry Division.

The vessel is the first of three Staten Island ferries Eastern is contracted to build and have long been thought to be headed to part of the former paper mill site bulkhead for outfitting.

Gulf County officials have yet to receive official word the Ollis would be coming here, but have been working on that assumption.

“According to (the engineers) we think we are on track to have all of the infrastructure in place for them by the end of the year,” said Assistant County Administrator Warren Yeager.

“That is what Eastern had talked about, getting started around the first of the year.”

Yeager added that he had not heard definitively the vessel will end up in Gulf County from Eastern officials.

The county received a $6 million state appropriation to assist with the infrastructure to establish an outfitting facility at the former St. Joe Company paper mill site bulkhead.

Eastern has been leasing a portion of the bulkhead and uplands for several years.

A groundbreaking at the site, where the Staten Island ferries were a focus of the event, was held more than a year ago.

The ferry was named after Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, a native of Staten Island and a U.S. Army soldier who served in Afghanistan, where he was ultimately killed.

As their Operating Base was being bombarded with grenades, mortars and rockets, Staff Sgt. Ollis died while shielding a Polish officer from a suicide bomber.

Giving his life to save another, Staff Sgt. Ollis died a hero, and this namesake ship honors his memory.

“We appreciate the Governor being here for the launch of the SSG Michael H. Ollis,” said President of Eastern Shipbuilding Group Joey D’Isernia. “His support has been critical to the recovery of our shipyard and our community.”

ESG was established in 1976 for the purpose of constructing commercial fishing boats, according to a news release.

ESG has since transformed into one of today’s leading innovators in the marine industry with a portfolio of over 350 vessels. Through its state-of-the-art production line and fabrication process, ESG is one of the most diverse vessel construction companies in the world.

Its expansion into Gulf County was announced some five years ago and has had its share of bumpy rides.