A U.S. judge has sentenced two men to more than a year in prison each after a Staten Island ferry crash killed 11 people and injured dozens more in 2003.

The sentences were handed down in a Federal Court in Brooklyn on Monday.

Richard Smith, who was piloting the ferry when he passed out and sent it smashing into a concrete pier at full speed on Oct. 15, 2003, was sentenced to 18 months in jail.

Patrick Ryan, the city's former ferry director and the highest-ranking official charged in the wreck, was sentenced to a year and a day behind bars.

Smith, 57, had earlier pleaded guilty to manslaughter, acknowledging he was too exhausted to be working on the day of the crash and had taken painkillers that could cause drowsiness.

Smith apologized to the victims' families in court.

"I will regret for the rest of my life that I did not just call in sick," he said. "I was on the wheel. I was responsible. I stand ready to suffer the consequences."

Smith was alone at the ship's controls when he blacked out after taking Tramadol, a drug used to treat back pain, as well as Tylenol PM. Both drugs list drowsiness as a possible side-effect.

Ryan, 53, who earlier pleaded guilty on related charges, also apologized to the victims' families.

He acknowledged he had failed to enforce a rule requiring two pilots to be on duty whenever a ferry docked.

The ferry, which was carrying about 1,500 passengers, slammed into a concrete maintenance pier as it was docking on Staten Island after a 25-minute trip from Manhattan. The crash tore a 76-metre gash that ran more than 2½ metres deep in the vessel's hull.

Smith fled the scene and tried to kill himself.

The investigation into the crash revealed serious problems with safety rules on New York's ferries.

A probation officer had recommended a three-month jail sentence for Smith and a six month sentence for Ryan.

Families of the victims had begged the judge to level the maximum punishments, under which Smith could have faced up to 27 months in prison.