Ferry, service providing conveyance for passengers and goods across a river or other body of water in a boat and, more recently, in a hydrofoil, air-cushioned vehicle, or an airplane. The transport vehicle is also called a ferryboat or a ferry plane. Specially built ferryboats carry railroad trains between points where railroad bridges are impractical.
The ferryboat usually operates over short distances, as across a river, bay, or from point to point in a harbor, such as the Staten Island ferry in the harbor of New York City, which carries both passengers and vehicles. If a ferry's route requires it to make frequent passages over short distances, it is built as a double-ended vessel that can be loaded and unloaded at either end and that operates without turning around at terminal points. For longer or rough passages, such as the services across the English Channel and the North Sea, the ferryboat has a conventional ship shape, and in its structure is better protected from the seas during transit.
Ferryboats usually have only one vehicle deck and carry passengers in the superstructure. Modern ferryboats are usually powered by diesel engines. Hydrofoil and air-cushioned vehicle ferries, carrying passengers only, are in extensive use in some parts of Europe, and recently plane ferries have become increasingly important for rapid transit.
Other major ferryboat services operate in the Baltic Sea between Copenhagen and Malmö, Sweden; across the strait of Bosporus in Turkey; between the several Japanese islands; and in the United States, across Lake Michigan and across Puget Sound in Washington state.