Newest 28-vehicle ferry welcomed with dedication

Port Aransas – The Texas Department of Transportation today welcomed the newest ferry to its Port Aransas fleet with a public dedication of the 28-vehicle Phil Wilson.

Named in honor of TxDOT former executive director Phil Wilson, the new ferry becomes the fourth 28-vehicle vessel in the eight-ferry Port Aransas fleet. It is scheduled to go into service in time for the Labor Day holiday.

“This is an exciting day for Texas as we christen another ferry to help move people and vehicles across the Corpus Christi Channel,” said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. “Additionally, it’s a well-deserved honor for us to dedicate this vessel to a man who has helped advance transportation around the state of Texas during his ongoing career in public service”

Port Aransas Mayor Pro Tem Wendy Moore, Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal, state Rep. Todd Hunter, TxDOT Corpus Christi District Engineer Chris Caron and Port Aransas Ferry Operations Manager Felix Trevino joined Bass and Wilson and scores of well-wishers at the ceremony.

“It’s an honor to have my name on one of the vessels in the Port Aransas Ferry Operations’ fleet,” Phil Wilson said. “I’m proud to be forever linked with a system that helps people get safely where they need to go – whether that’s for work or play.”

The dedication included a ribbon-cutting followed by a tour of the boat by the public. Designed by Elliott Bay Design Group in Seattle, Wash., and built by Southwest Shipyard in Houston, the Wilson features the latest in marine technology including more horsepower, better safety systems and more advanced navigation systems. Features include:

Diesel-electric propulsion system with three 750-horsepower engines compared to two 600-horsepower engines on some other 28-vehicle ferries. This system positions the Wilson to meet future energy and emissions reductions. Components were selected to reduce maintenance costs;  

Advanced emissions technology that nets annual reduction of about 10,000 pounds of Environmental Protection Agency-regulated diesel engine emissions;  

An automated, integrated alarm and monitoring system that employs sophisticated, robust control ofthe diesel-electric propulsion plant for increased passenger safety. The level of real-time information available to the crew about machinery status is extensive;  

All-LED lighting for reduced power requirements and more reliable service;  

Improved maneuverability, which increases safety during the channel crossing, particularly during heavy vessel traffic and strong tidal currents;  

Upgraded electronics including automatic vessel identification system and updated radar equipment with sophisticated digital chart plotting. This increases safety and visibility of the ferry to other vessels; and  

Shaded seating area and compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act. TxDOT operates the ferry system as a public service between Port Aransas and Harbor Island 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and transports more than 3 million vehicles annually. The ferries are named for former executive directors of TxDOT and are trimmed in the color of the director’s alma mater, which in the case of the Wilson is purple for Hardin-Simmons University.

One of the 20-vehicle ferries will be surplused to make room in the fleet for the Wilson.