December 17, 2021
Ferry Facts: A Look Back And A Look Ahead
Celebrating 2021 and Looking Toward 2022As 2021 draws to a close and I write this note, I am again reminded of all that can happen in a year's time. More people are getting vaccinated (or tested), and while incidents of the Covid virus fluctuate, we are able to move around a bit more freely than last year. Traffic this fall has been the best we have seen in the past several years. While the effects of the pandemic may be with us for quite some time, I hope you are feeling – like I am – that the worst is behind us.
I am continuously amazed what can happen when we work together, and you should be proud of your collective accomplishments this past year. Please join me in reviewing some of the amazing efforts that went right (or mostly so), and some of the promising projects and efforts we can look forward to in 2022.
Hires and PromotionsCongratulations to Captain Meghan Palmer who joins Captains Sharon Urban and Melissa Velli as the first cadre of all female permanent captains in DRBA history.
We are also pleased to have welcomed Stephanie McCleary aboard as our newest Customer Service Supervisor, as well as the following new hires into our DRBA family: Mate Stephen Bowen; 1st Asst. Engineers Jordan Pappas, Marcos Almazon, and Steven Blatchley, Mechanic 2nd Class Jacob Buechler, Mechanic Assts. Patrick Kershaw and Jaimie Sullivan.
There were a host of other promotions and hires – many of these having worked for us for many seasons as casual employees or in other positions. We are happy to have them aboard in their new roles: Mate Vanessa Robert; AB Billy Rickards; Welder 2nd Class Nick Martin; and OSs: Mike Sherno Jr., Kenneth Nave, Tom Cwirko, John Schuster, Joseph Baumgarten, Paul Kearney, Ron Rookstool, Vincent DiRenzo. Welcome aboard!
EZ Launch & F&R Success
With a host of challenges including a late start, the ongoing effects of the pandemic, a staffing and supply shortage, a lack of a liquor license, etc., we were pleased to welcome local restauranter Exit Zero to be the operator of our bar and grill in Cape May (following in the footsteps of Grain who took over in Lewes last year). We are excited to see what Exit Zero has planned for their first full season next year, and what the planned renovations do to beautify and modernize the terminal and outdoor spaces. During this transition, our own F&R team will have had their best vessel sales in the past six years, achieving positive gross income for a record six months for the first time in the past ten years. Bravo Zulu!
Despite fits and starts, and being seriously delayed for a number of reasons (some again related to the supply chain) , the marine engineering team completed the largest shipyard contract we've had in decades for the repowering and renovation of the MVNJ. This project, valued at some $21 million, was partially offset by $3M in FTA grants. In addition, the team completed interior/galley renovations that consolidated retail and food operations and provides a modern space for customers to easily find items for sale. Despite the delays, this was a huge accomplishment for Port Engineer Jeff Robert, Assistant Port Engineer Mike Lynch and their entire team. Special thanks to Shaun O’Brien for his contributions towards the interior renovations, and a HUGE shout-out to Ed Dankievitch and the Vessel Maintenance team for keeping the other two boats on the run the entire summer while the MVNJ was out of service.
Continuing our mission to go green, the Green Team, comprised of EHS and Ferry team members, accomplished the installation of EV chargers in Cape May, and also installed a device to capture floating plastic debris in the Cape May Canal. Congrats to the Green Team for taking on these extra challenges and getting the Authority continued positive recognition while continuing the many duties of their regular jobs.
After two years in planning and development, thanks to IT, Terry Anstead, and Andrew Baird’s efforts, we added webchat communications to our capabilities. Customers may now pose questions directly on CMLF.com, where call center staff may promptly answer without tying up the phone lines.
Thanks to our Engineering Department, major renovations were completed on both waterfronts including updates to transfer bridges, fender replacements, and the installation of a new monopile in Lewes.
A year-long study to consider what the future ferry fleet will look like is approaching completion. Naval architects Elliot Bay Design Group are scheduled to begin the design in Q2 of this year. Thanks to all of you who have weighed in with your thoughts and comments throughout the year. I am excited for where the design initiative will take us next, and, as I have said before, this will set the path for the ferry fleet of the future for many years to come.
Marine Master Plan
Design work continues as a follow up to the master plan completed in 2016. Work will begin this off-season on replacing the utility services on both sides with consolidated utility corridors that will allow for more organized servicing and repair of gas, water, sewer, and electric services.
Thanks to those of you who will be on watch or duty over the upcoming holidays. Here's wishing that all of us and our families and loved ones have a very blessed and well-deserved holiday season, no matter how or when you celebrate. I count myself personally blessed to have such a good team of hard-working, professional shipmates, and I am eternally thankful for all you do for the Ferry and for the DRBA.