The MV Twin Capes, a luxurious ferry intended to be the jewel in the crown of the Cape May-Lewes Ferry system, was sent to the bottom of the ocean off Delaware on Friday, after years of sitting unused in Lower Township.

The Delaware River and Bay Authority, which runs the ferries, spent $27 million to expand and renovate the ship in 1996, and recently sold it for $200,000 to Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources for use as an artificial ocean reef. It was stripped of anything that could be dangerous to the environment, and taken about 35 miles off of Delaware, where it was sunk just before noon Friday.

Now it will provide habitat for sea life and a place for recreational fishermen to enjoy.

The ferry was sunk to a depth of 120 to 130 feet on the Del-Jersey-Land Inshore Artificial Reef, which is equidistant from Lewes, Cape May and Ocean City, Maryland, according to Delaware officials.

The 320-foot-long ferry joined other submerged ships, including the ex-destroyer USS Arthur W. Radford, which went down in 2011 as the longest ship reefed on the East Coast at 568 feet; and the Zuni/Tamaroa, a harbor tug and Battle of Iwo Jima survivor that later became a US Coast Guard cutter.

The Twin Capes was the biggest and most expensive of the Cape May-Lewes fleet, with a full restaurant, a food court and two plush bars. A DRBA spokesman said at the time that the goal was to make it “like a cruise ship” and “one of the premier ferry vessels in the nation.”

But after the ferry system lost its right to serve prepared food, due to poor sanitation in 2000, the restaurants were closed.

The DRBA said the Twin Capes cost more to operate, and required a crew of 17 rather than the 12 that staff the average ferry. It also used more fuel than the other three ferries with every 17-mile crossing over the Delaware Bay.

So it put the ship up for sale years ago, but it failed to draw interest on the commercial market.

The DRBA sold the similarly large MV Cape May in 2013 to Northstar Marine Services, based in Dennis Township, for $750,000 for use as a construction barge.

There are three remain-ing ferry boats in the fleet: the MV New Jersey, the MV Delaware and the MV Cape Henlopen.

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Contact: 609-272-7219 Twitter @MichelleBPost

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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