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Marine Master Plan: Questions

Since January 2021, several fact-finding and information sessions have been held both with Ferry employees and the public. Sessions were hosted by naval architects Elliott Bay Design Group (EBDG) along with  KPFF, a marine consulting firm, to get input and gather feedback on potential ideas for the ferry fleet of the future. Below is a compilation of all questions and answers received to date grouped by category. For simplicity, some questions/comments and answers have been paraphrased. 

Please continue to send your thoughts or questions via email to [email protected], or by leaving a voice mail at: (609) 889-7280. As new questions are received we'll continue to update the list. If you see some marine terminology you don't know, check out the glossary at the bottom of this page. If you missed the last public session and want to review the slide deck, please click on the button here. 

See the Slide Deck



Q.  Did you consider non-diesel electric propulsion costs? Does your hybrid system include batteries? Both Siemens and ABB have developed battery technology for ferry use. Norway is running all electric ferries now. Their ships are way bigger than what you are looking at. Aside from battery technology, hydrogen fuel cell EV technology is also being used. This would take the burden off of the power grid, provide non-carbon emissions.
We are actively considering battery-powered ferries, but other alternative fuels will be considered (i.e. hydrogen, LNG, etc.)  At this time, battery-powered/diesel hybrid ferries appear to be the most feasible.  

​Q. Why is a hybrid-electric assumed and not direct diesel?
Globally, ferry operators are looking for technologies to reduce their environmental impact. One technology that has been rapidly adopted in Northern Europe is diesel-electric propulsion with energy storage systems in the form of batteries, also known as hybrid-electric propulsion. This allows an operator to potentially use stored electricity for propulsion to reduce or replace the consumption of fossil fuels.

In the U.S., major ferry operators such as Texas DOT, Washington State Ferries, Louisiana DOT, and Maine DOT are designing or building vessels with hybrid-electric propulsion. There is a cost premium for doing so (an increase of 20% or more over a geared-diesel propulsion system), but operators see the environmental benefits. This new technology may also facilitate federal funding for construction as evidenced by language in the proposed infrastructure bill that has been moving through Congress.

Q. Are you using the hybrid diesel with electric generations but with electric propulsion similar to what larger liners are using?
These propulsion technologies are being investigated. A final propulsion alternative will be selected later in the vessel design process.

Q. You may want to consider using wind, solar and even hydro power generation. Hydro would be efficient. 
A. Hydro-electric is not as prevalent in the U.S. but we are hopefully it can be also considered.

Q. Any chance for wind generation on the Ferry properties? It would help with the electric grid.
We are definitely looking at wind and solar power generation on the grounds in Cape May - potentially to charge the ferries.

Q. Please apply for grants for electric ferries (with some assist from on-board solar) under Build Back Better proposals, if enacted. 
That is our intention if they get passed. There appears to be language in the infrastructure bill aimed specifically at green ferries. Please let your legistlators know you support this!

Q: Thank you for including limited electric power to propel the new fleet of ferries (according to the Cape Gazette). I urge you to move to full electric power as soon as possible based on operational cost savings (fuel and maintenance). It also reduces pollution of air and water, including global warming. 
We are definitely considering green propulsion technology – to the limits of its current and future capabilities – in our design. This will also be somewhat dependent on funding/grant availability, as green technology propulsion is estimated to have an initial capital cost that is 20% more than standard diesel propulsion.


Q. I'm concerned about downsizing the boats. With all the new homes and development of all the new community homes in Delaware we're going to have a lot more traffic on the ferry. 
While some of the options we are considering involve smaller vessels, all but one of the options allows for greater service – that is – each is designed to accommodate some regional population growth.  Only one option (#2A with three 75-car ferries) provides for slightly lesser service during the peak summer demand. Your concern and population and tourism forecasts are being factored into our planning.

Q. Population in Cape May County has exploded in the last ten years with more new housing developments starting every day. We max out our capacity every summer. To build for today’s demand and not allow for growth is a huge mistake. We have yet to tap the potential this route could bring. Proof is when we add departures our ridership increases. This past summer had we had 4 vessels we would have filled them. Even today our vessels are mostly sold out.
The year-round population in Cape May County has continued to decline. As of the latest Census, Cape May County is reported to have 95,263 residents, or 2.1% less than in 2010 and 6.9% less than 2000. Second home growth has increased leading to increased number of housing units but also increased seasonality with many homes empty for much of the year. This leads to increased summer demand, but softer off-season demand. However, we are taking population growth data into account. The goal is not to just have more ridership, but right-sized ridership for each crossing and each day to maximize the efficient use of each vessel.

Year Pop. +/- %
2020 95,263 -2,002 -2.0%
2010 97,265 -5,061 -4.9%
2000 102,326    

Q. During off season or slow season, can the vessels be used for additional uses such as offshore tours of the Delaware Bay, lighthouses, tours to nowhere around Cape May, Wildwood area and waters? This will help maintain staff during down times and another income source to the CMLF?
Yes as demand is available and it makes sense. It is worth noting that these types of requests are most likely to occur in season, but as we do with the Triathlon --where swimmers start their race by leaping from the ferry each summer -- we would look to provide these types of services when possible.

Q. Will the vessel height be 13'6" high or will the car deck height be different?
The clear overhead height above the vehicle deck will be no less than 13'6". The exact height has not yet been determined. 

Q. How would smaller vessels impact commercial traffic? Is that a concern?
Smaller vessels may pose some limitations on commercial traffic. More analysis will be done on this, and the DRBA is hopeful that smaller vessels will not significantly impact commercial traffic. We should know more as we lay out the deck footprint next year. 

Q. I think that two 55 passengers ferries would be a better option. It could be able to add extra people and cars for more income. It would also cost less to build than one 100 passenger ferry. This is just my opinion.
Thanks so much for taking the time to comment on our project.  We will consider your comments in our planning effort.

Q: Isn’t it the smaller the ferry the rougher the ride on rough waters and bad weather?
It is true that a smaller vessel will move more in a sea way.  We believe that this increased motion would effect a limited number of crossings, and primarily in the off season, but it is a factor that we are considering in our planning.


Q. Are there any differences in travel times based on the different size of the vessels?
Although the new boats travel at slightly different maximum speeds, the total travel time for each vessel size is relatively the same due to the  times for onboarding and off-boarding differing by vessel size. Regardless of vessel model, the travel time is approximately an 80-minute trip. 

Q.We currently run 4 round trips with one vessel in the winter; 6 or 7 round trips with two vessels in shoulder season; and when we have 3 vessels available 9 round trips for weekdays and 12 round trips for weekends in the summer. The charts that show schedules for the new vessels do not allow for any growth. 
The consultants are using a 9-roundtrip weekend and 7-roundtrip weekday schedule for the existing vessels, and a 17-roundtrip weekend and 9-roundtrip weekday schedule for the concept 3 vessels. This was designed to meet the goal of increasing service over time and meeting the 95th percentile of each ridership day. The model focuses on relative performance of the options, but they can always be revisited and/or the shoulder schedule assumptions modified for each option if desired.



Q. Have you considered a mix of vessels, e.g, one of plan 2 and 3 of plan 3?  55 cars during peak time seems not enough.
Yes, but a mix does come with its own set of challenges including an ability to swap boats as needed.  If a 75-car of 55-car fleet is selected, a mixed fleet will be the default condition as we gradually phase out the older, larger vessels while continuing to operate with the newer vessels as they come online.

Q. Is the DRBA leaning towards a double-ended ferry?
A double-ended ferry was used in the schedule and operating model that was presented and, therefore, is represented in the costs and potential schedules that could be achieved.

Q. I would love to see complete handicap accessibility to all areas of the vessel.
We are adding this to our list of desired owner's requirements. 


Q. ​Is it part of the Master Plan to further promote the use of the Cape May Lewes ferry system (to attract more users)?
The marketing aspect is not part of this planning effort, but it is part of our annual planning. 

Q. ​Assuming tourism numbers in terms of travelers in both states to gradually increase, would it not behoove CMLF to go with Option 1 to ensure a seamless transition from old to new?
All models take into account growth assumptions. No option is being considered that limits our ability to grow and serve regional growth needs. 


Q:  One slide referenced costs associated with 25-Year Life Cycle Costs. Does this include maintenance costs? 

Q: Do the maintenance costs assumed consider the wear and tear on a smaller vessel that may occur during the winter months (perhaps more so than the larger vessels)?
The maintenance costs for the smaller vessels are based on similar Subchapter K vessels, some of which operate in winter conditions that are equal in severity to the Delaware Bay.

Q. Would any of the new federal infrastructure monies currently in the pipeline be made eligible to help CMLF acquire what it needs?
Ferries – particularly ferries that improve environmental/carbon emission footprints - are included in the draft of the infrastructure bills under consideration and we are monitoring available funds should they become available.


Q. Can the shallow waters of the Bay and terminal be met with a double-ended ferry (drafts and propulsion systems)?
Yes. Double-ended ferries can be safely designed and operated in areas with shallow water. Depth of water particularly in the canal is being taken into consideration in all models.

An example of a current fleet with smaller vessels in shallow waters is the ferry Woods Hole, which has a full load draft of 10’-6” compared to the 7’-6” draft for the DELAWARE. The route from Hyannis to Nantucket has depths generally less than 50 ft. Controlling depths in Nantucket Harbor are 13 ft to 14 ft. Controlling depths for Hyannis are 11 ft at MLLW. The sea conditions in Nantucket Sound are short, steep seas in winter. This would be similar to sea conditions across the shallower part of the Delaware Bay. Therefore, the seakeeping response of the Woods Hole would be similar to a proposed 55-car ferry for the DRBA. [A team is going up to Woods Hole in October to see their operations firsthand.]

Other shallow draft ferry examples include the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) ferries that cross the Pamlico Sound on a 26 n.m. route between the town of Swan Quarter and Silver Lake Harbor on Ocracoke Island. The depths in the Sound are typically 24 ft or less. They operate two 50 car vessels designed by EBDG on that route that have an overall length of 220’-6” and a design draft of 6’-6”. In general, they operate those vessels in all weather conditions until wind speeds exceed a consistent 30 knots. On Pamlico Sound after 6 hours of 30 knot winds blowing over a 36 n.m. fetch, the waves can reach a significant wave height of 8 ft.

EBDG has also recently designed some smaller, 40-car ferries for NCDOT that will operate on rivers or across Hatteras Inlet that have a maximum draft of 4’-6”. 

Q. I took the time to research the Woods Hole ferry system after the presentation. I feel that we need to do real cost of operation surveys based on real boats. The hulls on Port Jeff Ferry’s Grand Republic or Cross Sound Ferry service’s vessel John H., or the Woods Hole are very different and could not operate on our route....[so] When we look at operating costs we cannot compare a hull that is very clean, fast for fuel consumption when the hull can not even get into our canal. 
We will take all of this into consideration. The architects are NOT proposing that any new vessels would have any increase in draft. We are fortunate to have architects who have direct experience with some of these systems so we can draw on their expertise as we evaluate options.

Q. Why are new dolphins needed to support the 75- and 55-vehicle vessels?
In Slip 3 and the other overnight berthing slips, the shorter vessels will require new dolphins to provide secure locations for mooring lines. 

Q.  In order to run the schedule that is shown of 23 roundtrips you will require 10 crews each projected at a 5-person crew each day -- or 50 crew members --just to meet the demand we currently do with 36 crew members. 
You are correct – a crew schedule for concept 3 (smaller vessels) requires 50 crewmembers. However, the calculated schedule for the existing vessels (which is similar to what we ran in 2017) requires 70 crew. We are currently planning to run a 6-crew schedule (2021 – 2022), but all vessel and crew schedules in the models were set up to have close to the same vehicle throughput and to allow for some growth in traffic. 

Q. Unless these new vessels can cut sailing time down significantly, since remember speed costs money the fuel savings may be inaccurate. A fuel burn study we did at a different ferry system in 2002 proved that going from 16 knots to 18 knots on one vessel increased the fuel consumption by 18%. Our route of 17 miles in one hour and 15 min crossing is realistic if the vessels can maintain 15 knots. Remember we have shoal to contend with that affects our speed. Turning the vessel twice on the south bound trip does add time approx. 6 to 9 min. With a double ended vessel there would be a savings. Question is it enough to justify a double ended system? 
To meet the increased schedule tempo modeled in the analysis, vessel transit speed certainly needed to increase, but by assuming a double ended ferry and eliminating the turnaround time, this was reduced compared to what would be required for a single ended ferry.  The estimated fuel consumption and associated costs shown in the analysis reflect the increased service tempo and transit speed compared to current fleet fuel consumption.

Q. Can the vessel propulsion and steering system be able to handle a grounding, or will the vessel have to be drydocked if we hit bottom? 
Very good point. We will continue this discussion with EBDG. It is possible that a double-ended design could reduce some cause of groundings by reducing the need to turn, but having exposed running gear forward certainly presents more risk in case of grounding than with a conventional vessel bow, and certainly must be a consideration in the vessel design.


Q. Will smaller ferries hamper our ability to host events like Rock the Boat?
It is true that there will be less room for event space. However, with additional vessels in the fleet, the DRBA may have more options to deploy a separate vessel for events -- similar to how we dedicate a charter event now. In addition, we will be considering how to use the outdoor spaces on new vessels for everyday passenger enjoyment on board much like we have now with outdoor seating and Lido Bars.

Q. If we were running with smaller vessels (option 3) would there be the same space for Food and Retail?  If the plan is to offer more food options for our guests and provide a better level of customer service, how can we do that with a more limited space in the galley concession area as well as in the kitchen? Are there any preliminary drawings at this point? Would the configuration allow for an interior and exterior bar area?
We have not yet reached the level of design to completely answer this, but with the distance and  planned duration of our crossing, some level of food and beverage service will always be provided.  We are planning to visit some vessels that EBDG has identified as being close in size to some of the concept vessels, and we'll also look at  what they do onboard re: food and retail.  


CAPSTANS-- Mechanical devices used for hauling in mooring lines.
DOLPHINS -- When used in this context, not the mammal. Dolphins are man-made structures that extend above the water and are not connected to the shore. They are used as a fender to protect structures from possible boat impact and as a structure to attach mooring lines to secure a vessel.
DOUBLE-ENDED FERRIES -- This refers to ferries like ours where vehicles can be on and off-loaded from either end of the vessel, but unlike ours, in this case, they have propulsion such that they can dock without doing a turn -- so the bow becomes the stern. 
DRAFT --  The vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of a boat's hull. Draft refers to the minimum water depth a boat can safely sail within. The heavier a boat is, the deeper it sinks into the water and the greater its draft. Since we carry vehicles plus passengers, we have a larger draft than many passenger-only ferries, but because we operate in shallow waters, we must have lesser draft than many other vehicle ferries.
FETCH -- Generally an area of water where the wind continuously blows in one direction generating large waves. 
MLLW -- This is an abbreviation for Mean Lower Low Water.  MLW is the general lowest low tide an area experiences, but MLLW is lowest tide experienced on any date of all low tides for that date.
N.M. -- Nautical Mile. One nautical mile is slightly longer than a land mile (1.1508 to 1 land mile) and is based on one minute (1/60th, or a degree) of latitude coordinates rather than just distance.
SUBCHAPTER K Vessels -- This is a US Coast Guard designation for small passenger vessels with the ability to carry more than 150 passengers. The smallest vessels being considered fall into this class. We are currently running Subchapter H vessels, which refers to a larger vessel that can carry a higher passenger load and also requires a higher crew complement.