CAPE MAY – Its days of carrying passengers and vehicles across the Delaware Bay now over, a vessel from the Cape May-Lewes Ferry fleet is being prepared for one final journey — to the bottom of the sea.
The Delaware River and Bay Authority announced Monday that the MV Twin Capes had been officially sold to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control for $200,000 for use as part of an artificial reef.
The DRBA’s efforts to find a buyer which would use the ferry for transportation were not successful.
“We’re pleased to be able to partner with DNREC on this worthwhile environmental project,” said Heath Gehrke, director of ferry operations in a release announcing the completion of the sale. “During the sale process, it was apparent that the market was thin for such a specialized vessel. For us, it made sense to partner with DNREC on this artificial reef project to benefit the divers and sport fishermen of Delaware, New Jersey, and Maryland.”
Officials had earlier announced that DNREC was planning to purchase the vessel.
The Twin Capes was towed out of its docking spot at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal on the Cape May Canal on Thursday en route to the shipyard of Coleen Marine of Virginia Beach, Va.
The vessel will be stripped and prepared for what is expected to be its 2018 sinking onto the Del-Jersey-Land artificial reef 26 miles off the Delaware and New Jersey coast, officials said
DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin said the Twin Capes would be reefed on the Del-Jersey-Land offshore reef site so that numerous fish species “can take advantage of the rich and spacious habitat it will provide. The Twin Capes is the one of the finest reefing candidates DNREC has ever seen, and as an artificial reef, it will be unparalleled as fish habitat and a spectacular dive for exploration.”
Smoking banned on ferry vessels
The Twin Capes, built in 1974, was appraised at $10 million, officials said at the time it was declared surplus in 2010. A second vessel in the fleet, The Cape May, built in 1984, had been appraised at $6 million and was declared surplus in 2007 by the DRBA.
Both vessels had been extensively retrofitted over time. The Cape May was eventually sold for scrap.
Officials said the Twin Capes was more costly both in terms of fuel usages and staffing than other ferries in the fleet.
Gehrke said it was expected that stripping the Twin Capes will net about $230,000 worth of equipment, electronics and engine components has been or will be removed from the vessel for resale. Included in the items destined for the warehouse are the vessel’s propellers, rescue boats, benches, chairs, bow thruster, light fixtures, generators, and pumps.
The Twin Capes actually remained in service until the summer of 2013. The 320-foot-ling vessel was moored at the Cape May Ferry terminal. It was capable of carrying 895 people and 100 vehicles.
The Cape May-Lewes Ferry has three vessels remaining in its fleet — the MV Delaware, MV New Jersey, and MV Cape Henlopen. Officials say they are adequate to provide passenger and vehicle service across the Delaware Bay between Cape May and Lewes, Del.
Along with the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, the DRBA operates the Delaware Memorial Bridges, several regional airports, a business park and a seasonal ferry on the Delaware River.
Bill Gallo Jr. may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Bill Gallo Jr. on Twitter @bgallojr. Find NJ.com on Facebook.