He said the vessel did not have a data recorder and was not required to have one. But he said that wouldn't hinder the investigation, and they should be able to get information from the boat's electronic charting system and photographic evidence.
On Thursday, investigators also will be documenting the damage on the pier and engineers will begin to comb through the ferry's maintenance records.
Dee Wertz, who was on shore waiting for the ferry, saw the impact. She said that just moments before the ferry hit, she had been having a conversation with a ferry employee about how the boat's captains had been complaining lately about its maneuverability.
"He was telling me that none of these guys like this boat," she said. "It was coming in a little wobbly. It hit the right side of the boat on the dock hard, like a bomb."
About 330 passengers and crew members were aboard the ferry, which had arrived from Atlantic Highlands, a part of the Jersey Shore still struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy. Passenger Frank McLaughlin, whose home was filled with 5 feet of water in the late October storm, said he was thrown forward and wrenched his knee.
"We come in and do this every day, and so it just kind of glides in," he said. "It came in hard, and it was just a huge impact as we hit."
Some passengers were bloodied when they banged into walls and toppled to the floor, he said.
"We were pulling into the dock. The boat hit the dock. We just tumbled on top of each other. I got thrown into everybody else. ... People were hysterical, crying," said Ellen Foran, of Neptune City, N.J.
New York City's transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, said the ferry was coming in at 10 to 12 knots, or about 12- to 14 mph, when it struck one slip and then hit a second.