Old ferries can be hard to unload

They can languish on the market for years or, when they finally go at fire sale prices, take on a whole new life.

Case in point — the Delaware River and Bay Authority’s (DRBA) ferries, Twin Capes and Cape May. The former’s most recent appraisal was $3.3 million — down from $5.5 million in 2012, and the latter is now a barge with bowthrusters intact.

Berthed at the Cape May (N.J.) Ferry Terminal, Twin Capes was declared surplus property in July 2010 and operated summers only through 2013 on the 17-mile crossing between Delaware and Cape May. The 320’x68’ double ender ferry, built in 1974 at Todd Shipyards in Houston for $3.9 million, can carry 895 passengers and 100 cars on lakes, bays and sounds

“We’ve had discussions with interested parties both domestic and international,” said DRBA spokesman Jim Salmon, but so far, no buyers. They haven’t determined how long they’ll keep marketing her “and we may consider selling her as scrap.”

“Vessels do sell,” said Rob McMahon, president of Pinnacle Marine Corp., a Stoddard, Wis.-based brokerage. “It’s just finding that particular buyer that has a need for that vessel.”

Phil Risko, owner of Northstar Marine, Clermont, N.J., didn’t have a need for the Cape May as she was, but for what she could become. He picked her up for $750,000 in 2013.

05.05.15 CapeMayBarge

DRBA kept about $530,000 worth of spare parts from the Cape May, which was valued at $1.6 million.

The 302’x68’ ferry, built in 1985 at Norfolk Shipbuilding and Drydock Corp. for $14.5 million, was declared surplus property in July 2007. The Cape May and sister vessels earlier had undergone multimillion upgrades in an attempt to attract more riders to the 70-minute crossing, but ridership continued to sag.

Risko recently finished removing the superstructure to convert Cape May to a barge. “We have it for sale or charter and have several interested parties,” he said. “There are not many very large barges available.”

They also have their own projects for which the Cape May would be suitable, such as oyster bed rehabilitation.

He’s recouped about a third of his investment selling everything from the engines, generators and kitchen equipment to outdoor furniture, life jackets and the teak trim on the bar.

So, is he interested in the Twin Capes? “Not at that price,” he said.

DRBA currently operates three vessels — the New Jersey, Delaware and Cape Henlopen.

About the author

Dale K. DuPont

Dale DuPont has been a correspondent for WorkBoat since 1998. She has worked at daily and weekly newspapers in Texas, Maryland, and most recently as a business writer and editor at The Miami Herald, covering the cruise, marine and other industries. She and her husband once owned a weekly newspaper in Cooperstown, N.Y., across the alley from the Baseball Hall of Fame. A South Florida resident, she enjoys sailing on Biscayne Bay, except in hurricane season.

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