Blount-Barker Shipbuilding signed a contract on April 15th with Delaware River Port Authority
(DRPA) to convert the M/V Essex to passenger only service. The 100 ft. open deck passenger/auto ferry with single ended propulsion will be converted to increase the maximum capacity from 149 to 600. Modifications include a conversion to double ended propulsion, enclosing the main deck and providing a steel canopy
to cover the upper deck. The vessel will be converted for inspection and certification as a small passenger vessel in accordance with the requirements of 49CFR Subchapter K.
The M/V Essex was originally built by Blount Marine Corporation
in 1981 for the Lake Champlain Transportation Company. It operated as an auto/passenger ferry under USCG Subchapter T requirements for 20 successful years. The vessel, acquired by the DPRA in 2001 will be renamed the M/V Freedom and will service the Delaware River between Camden and Philadelphia.
The M/V Freedom will be powered by 2 Caterpillar 3406C DITA engines producing 322hp at 1,800 rpm. The diesel engines will be coupled to Twin Disc 3:1 ratio MG-514C gearboxes and drive two 4-bladed 44"x 30"p Kahlenberg propellers. Twin 55 kW Northern Lights generators will provide the vessel's electrical needs.
The M/V Essex was redesigned and engineered by Bristol Harbor Marine Design, a naval architecture and marine engineering company located in Bristol, Rhode Island. Reconstruction for the vessel began in mid-April with completion scheduled for October 2002.