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The Lower Kingswear to Dartmouth ferry, Devon, England. The pontoon carries eight cars and is towed across the River Dart by a small tug. Only two ropes connect the tug to the pontoon.

A ferry is a boat or a ship carrying passengers, and possibly their vehicles, on a relatively short-distance, regularly-scheduled service.

Ferries form an important part of the public transport systems of many waterside cities, allowing direct transit between points at a capital cost much lower than bridges or tunnels.

A foot-passenger ferry with many stops, such as in Venice, is called waterbus.

Longer-run ferries connect many coastal islands with the mainland. Perhaps the most notable ferry route of this sort is the one across the English Channel connecting Great Britain with the rest of Europe, but there are many others.

A large variety of watercraft designs have been used as ferries, depending on the length of the route, the passenger or vehicle capacity required, speed requirements and the water conditions the craft must deal with. Hydrofoils have been used with advantages of higher cruising speeds on popular ferry routes, succeeding hovercraft on the route mentioned above where the ferries now compete against the Shuttle and Eurostar trains that use the Channel Tunnel. Very short distances may be operated by a cable ferry, where the ferry is propelled and steered by cables connected to each shore. Sometimes the cable ferry is human powered by someone on the boat. Some cable ferries use the perpendicular force of the current as a source of power.

Free ferries operate in some parts of the world, such as at Woolwich in London, England (across the River Thames) and in Amsterdam, Netherlands (across the IJ waterway).

On October 11, 1811 inventor John Stevens' ship the Juliana, began operation as the first steam-powered ferry (service was between New York, New York, and Hoboken, New Jersey).

Coin operated cable ferry at Espevær in Bømlo, Norway

Crossing a river as a metaphor for transition is very old. The profession of the ferryman is embodied in Greek mythology as Charon.

See also: BC Ferries