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Marine Log

September 13, 2007

DRBA puts MV Cape May on the block

The Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA) has initiated the process to sell the MV Cape May, one of five vessels in the Cape May--Lewes Ferry (CMLF) fleet.

The move is part of a comprehensive plan to improve efficiency and reduce the operating deficit at the CMLF, which was $6.8 million in 2006. The ferry operation is extremely seasonal as the number of daily departures vary from eight in the winter to thirty during the height of the summer season. In July, the MV Cape May was declared surplus property and the agency is seeking to sell the vessel to the highest bidder.

According to Heath Gehrke, Director of Ferry Operations, the decision to sell the MV Cape May was based on a number of operating factors. "Based on traffic demand in 2006, the fifth vessel was needed on only 15 days to complete 40 crossings,"said Gehrke . "It just doesn't make economic sense to maintain a vessel for 365 days a year that is used for only 15 days a year."

Gehrke also said that the MV Cape May requires 17 crew members to operate compared to the 12 crew members for other typical vessels. The MV Cape May also uses about 25 more gallons of fuel per hour than the typical vessel in the fleet.

The vessel's maintenance costs were also considered and factored into the decision. The MV Cape May has approximately 20,000 square feet of exterior white painted surface to maintain compared to about 12,000 square feet for the typical vessel in the fleet, resulting in increased paint and labor costs.

"The CMLF will continue to take necessary and prudent actions to close the operating deficit," Gehrke said. "We are looking forward to the completion of the new marine master plan, which will provide the framework for the future of our ferry operation."

In September 2006, the DRBA contracted with Hornblower Marine Services, LLC (HMS) to provide marine master planning services for the CMLF. The primary focus of the study will be to determine what the future of the ferry fleet should look like, including the size, speed, and number of vessels. According to HMS, these marine master planning services will result in a "phased and comprehensive strategy to maintain, improve, and optimize operations and assets associated with their Cape May-Lewes Ferry operation." The project is expected to be completed in December 2007.

Built at the Norfolk Shipbuilding and Drydock Corporation in 1985, the MV Cape May is 320 feet long, 68 feet wide and displaces more than 2100 tons. The vessel has vehicle and passenger capacities of 90 and 1,014 respectively. In 2006, the CMLF completed 5,676 crossings of the Delaware Bay