HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, N.L.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
A plethora of government officials were in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Sept. 7 to announce two new ferries servicing Labrador. Transportation and Works Minister Steve Crocker announced that beginning in 2019 two newer ferries would be replacing the current older ones.
“This will have significant benefits to Labrador and to the island as well,” he said. “It will amount to a significant enhancement in the marine transportation network in the region.”
The contract for the Strait of Belle Isle is valued at approximately $11.9 million per year for a 12-year term. The contract for the north coast of Labrador is valued at approximately $14.6 million per year for a 15-year term, delivered in partnership with Nunatsiavut Marine Inc.
Both ferries are also much newer than the current ones with the new ferry for the north coast, the MV Grete, being only eight years old and MV Hiiumaa on the Strait of Belle Isle only seven years old. The MV Apollo is 48 years old, the MV Ranger is 32 years old and the MV Astron is 47 years old.
A big change with the Grete, which will replace both the Apollo and the Ranger, will be combining passengers and freight on the same boat and allowing, for the first time ever on the coast, a roll-on roll-off service allowing vehicles to be transported with passengers.
Peter Woodward, CEO of Labrador Marine Inc., the company that won the tender for both contracts, said he’s been searching for the appropriate vessels for at least a decade and is excited about the changes they will bring.
“It’s going to change the way that people on the north coast receive services, but it’s going to greatly enhance them,” he said. “It’ll be phenomenal for personal travel but also a benefit for commercial travel when it comes to moving goods and services on the coast.”
Woodward said in his opinion, it will double the capacity for the Labrador coast and be a much better match for the region. The new ferry will be able to accommodate 140 passengers, up from 131 currently and be able to handle up 20 vehicles. It will also have containers on wheels and freight will now be loaded in Happy Valley-Goose Bay instead of Lewisporte, which Woodward said will have a big impact on how long freight takes to reach the coast.
LMI will be partnering with Nunatsiavut Marine Inc on the north coast ferry, a move Woodward said he is happy about and hopefully opens the door for future partnerships.
When the request for proposals for the new ferries was announced in April, concerns were raised about infrastructure and that the new ferry would only service Black Tickle once a month. Woodward said the concern with port infrastructure will be dealt with. The Grete is being modified to have the exact same ramp structure that’s on the Astron to accommodate the north coast communities.
Cartwright–L'Anse au Clair MHA Lisa Dempster spoke at the announcement and said the Black Tickle issue has been resolved and the community will continue to be accommodated once a week.
Strait of Belle Isle
The MV Hiiumaa will be replacing the MV Apollo for the Strait of Bell Isle. The new boat will be able to accommodate 60 more people, up to 300 from 240. It will also be able to accommodate 120 vehicles, up from 85. Dempster said this is great news, since the biggest issue she’s been hearing about the Apollo is capacity.
“We are so pleased to see this replacement vessel with increased capacity for an ever-growing Newfoundland and Labrador,” she said. “I think, in the past two summers, the most calls I have gotten have been about capacity and people not being able to book (on the Apollo).
“We are now opening up Labrador in ways we have never opened it before.”
Concerns were raised on social media about the new Straits ferry, specifically that some vehicles will be on an open deck, not below deck as they are now.
“People are saying these are open deck vessels,” Woodward said. “The main deck on these is down below. It will accommodate the biggest personal vehicles you could possibly accommodate; it will also accommodate forklifts and things of that nature down there. The upper deck is made to accommodate tractor-trailers and construction equipment.”
Both ferries are now en route to Canada for modifications and the ferry for the Straits is expected to be in operation in March of 2019, with the other one coming online in June.