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Delaware Maritime Exchange President Dennis Rochford Passes Away

dennis rochford
Image courtesy Delaware Maritime Exchange

Published Aug 2, 2021 2:04 PM by The Maritime Executive

Delaware Maritime Exchange President Dennis Rochford, a driving force for maritime interests in the greater Philadelphia area, passed away on July 31, 2021.

Dennis joined the Exchange in 1988 with the charge to develop and implement the TRACS cargo manifesting and release system – a port-wide IT system designed to interface with CBP's Automated Manifest System. The system is still used today by nearly four hundred maritime industry professionals throughout the Delaware River region, the country and the world. According to the Exchange, his approach to that project was characteristic of his problem-solving methods: he brought the community together to help determine the best path forward for the common good.

The Exchange board tapped Rochford to become its president in 1994 following the retirement of his predecessor, William Harrison. Since that time, Rochford led the Exchange through many challenges, not least of which was the effect of COVID-19 on the organization’s operations. For over 30 years, he guided the staff and provided the encouragement, counsel, and resources to help them reach their goals and achieve their own successes.

Rochford was known best for his efforts to see the Delaware River's main channel deepened to 45 feet. He fought for funding and ensured the lines of communication between members of Congress, the Army Corps of Engineers, and port stakeholders were always open. The project was finally completed in February 2020 after 10 contracts and multiple rounds of dredging and rock removal.

Rochford was also enthusiastic about politics. At the beginning of each Congressional session, he could be seen walking the halls of Capitol Hill with position papers in hand, stopping in to meet with congressional staff members to make sure they were aware of the needs of the maritime industry and to provide specific recommendations for action. 

Beyond his work for the Exchange, Rochford was active in national, state, and local politics. He served as a Delaware County (Pennsylvania) Commissioner, was Chief of Staff for New Castle County Executive Rita Justice, and he ran Pete du Pont’s Iowa campaign during the 1988 presidential race. Dennis twice ran for public office himself. His savvy as a political advisor and executive won him a spot on the weekly PBS show “Delaware Tonight,” a role he enjoyed for 11 years.

"Dennis’s passing marks the end of an era at the Maritime Exchange. We will sorely miss his leadership, his support, his unique style and brand of wit, and most of all, his friendship," the Exchange said in a statement.