Delaware Bay ferry to be sunk for artificial reef

After an unsuccessful five-year campaign by operators to sell the Cape May-Lewes Ferry vessel Twin Capes, it is now bound for the bottom of the ocean.

Once appraised at $5.5 million, the 320’x68’ double-ender Cape May, N.J.-based ferry — a onetime flagship of the Delaware River and Bay Authority —  was sold for $200,000 to Coleen Marine, Norfolk, Va., the contractor for the Delaware state artificial reef program.

Built in 1974 at Todd Shipyards, Houston, the 895-passenger ferry fell victim to high operating costs over time. With crew costs 50% higher and fuel 25% higher to operate the ferry than the authority’s three other vessels, the Twin Capes was withdrawn in 2010 from full-time service on the 17-mile cross bay route, operating only at peak summer times through 2013.

A $27 million refit and upgrade in 1996 aimed to make the Twin Capes a destination experience in its own right, with a full-service restaurant, food court and two bars.

Despite a marketing campaign and cutting the asking price to $3.3 million in 2015, the authority got no takers in an era of lighter, faster and efficient new build ferries.

“During the sale process, it was apparent that the market was thin for such a specialized vessel,” said Heath Gehrke, DRBA director of ferry operations. The agency removed $230,000 worth of equipment, electronics and engine components for resale, he said.

Escorted by Coleen Marine’s tug Justin, the Twin Capes left Cape May for the last time July 20. After preparation in Norfolk, the ferry will be sunk sometime in 2018 on a reef site 26 miles off Delaware, in 120’ of water. As an artificial reef, “it will be unparalleled as fish habitat and a spectacular dive for exploration,” said state environment commissioner Shawn Gavin.

The Twin Capes will join the Tamaroa, a storied 205’ Coast Guard cutter that rescued sailors and a downed New York National Guard air crew during the so-called “Perfect Storm” of October 1991. Coleen Marine handled that job in May 2017. The reef is also the resting place of the 563’ Navy destroyer Arthur W. Radford, the largest ship ever placed on an East Coast reef site.

 

 

 

 

About the author

Kirk Moore

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been a field editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for almost 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

2 Comments

  1. The Old Fisherman on

    Mr. Moore, What you don’t realize about the transaction, is that it’s going to cost another aprox $600,000 to clean the vessel and sink it on the reef IN FEDERAL WATERS. Of that total $800,000, the Sport Fish Restoration will be providing 75%. But the Sport Fish Restoration Program is not permitted to give money to any project over which the receipient (DNREC) doesn’t have magerial control (see 50 CFR.80.132) I.e. reefs IN FEDERAL WATERS are controlled by NMFS via 50 CFR 648.148. The Sport Fish Restoration Program is breaing Federal law, by financing this project….. It’s a mere technicality, but nobody seems to care about breaking Federal law. The “show” goes on !

  2. Bill Gerdsen on

    Traveled CM to Lewes, DE and return on “TWIN CAPES” many times as an
    East Coast mariner. Always well kept and operated.
    Glad to see a new function as a marine life habitat.

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