Cape May-Lewes Ferry getting engine upgrades [video]

The Cape May-Lewes Ferry will soon have a cleaner running, more efficient engine for one of its vessels.

The engine upgrades for the ferry’s M/V Delaware will be funded in part by a $975,000 federal grant. The engine upgrade will allow the vessel to use 39,600 fewer gallons of gas than its current power supply. The new engine will run cleaner as well, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 443 tons and nitrogen oxide emissions by nearly 40 tons.

“We’re going to be burning less fuel, the fuel that we are burning is going to be cleaner, and we’re going to save money doing it,” said Delaware Governor Jack Markell.  “That’s why we’re here.”

The current engines need extensive maintenance after every 10,000 hours of operation. The new engines don’t require that type of maintenance until 30,000 hours. That should save the ferry $130,000 every year in maintenance costs.

Markell was joined by U.S. Senators Chris Coons and Tom Carper for the announcement inside the ferry terminal in Lewes. Carper co-authored the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, which provided the funding for the improvements. Carper said the DERA was passed with surprising speed. 

“Within a month, it was signed into law by the President. That never happens,” Carper said. “The beauty about this legislation is the partnership that we have with DRBA and some federal money, this is the way that government is supposed to work.”

The engine upgrades are scheduled to start next November, said Heath Gehrke, Delaware River and Bay Authority director of ferry operations. The work should be completed before the start of the spring season in 2016.

“We’ll have better fuel consumption because of electronic fuel injection, modern engine controls, and all those things are going to make our lives a lot easier once they’re in the vessels,” Gehrke said.

The engines were built in 1974, but were based on a 1938 design that was used in some World War II submarines, Gehrke said. “They last a long time, but it is time for us to move in the direction of replacing them.”

The announcement comes near the end of an eventful year for the ferry. In addition to commemorating the ferry’s 50th year in operation, DRBA Exec. Dir. Scott Green said ridership on the ferry is up.

“It’s going to be the first year in ten plus years in which ridership at the ferry goes up and not down,” Green said. “It’s a year of teriffic news and today is another day of great news.”

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