New booking system a 'commercial weapon,' MP says

Deana Stokes Sullivan
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Meeting set for Monday to hear concerns of local companies

Newfoundland MP Gerry Byrne plans to hold a meeting at Mount Pearl City Hall Monday morning to listen to concerns from representatives of local businesses and transportation companies about Marine Atlantic's new commercial reservation system for the Gulf of St. Lawrence ferry service between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

Marine Atlantic recently held a meeting in Moncton, N.B. with representatives of the Atlantic Prov-ince's Trucking Association to discuss the new booking system, but some owners of smaller independent transportation companies in this province say they weren't represented at the meeting and they also question why the meeting was held in New Brunswick.

Gerry Byrne

Newfoundland MP Gerry Byrne plans to hold a meeting at Mount Pearl City Hall Monday morning to listen to concerns from representatives of local businesses and transportation companies about Marine Atlantic's new commercial reservation system for the Gulf of St. Lawrence ferry service between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

Marine Atlantic recently held a meeting in Moncton, N.B. with representatives of the Atlantic Prov-ince's Trucking Association to discuss the new booking system, but some owners of smaller independent transportation companies in this province say they weren't represented at the meeting and they also question why the meeting was held in New Brunswick.

Gerri Howlett of Akita Equipment says local transportation companies are circulating a petition to pressure Marine Atlantic to change the system and have also started a black ribbon campaign for supporters of their cause to tie black ribbons on their vehicle antennas.

The new system was introduced in March. Prior to that, commercial vehicles boarded the Gulf ferries on a first-come, first-served basis.

Byrne said the new system gives large companies the opportunity to make mass bookings on every crossing and the bigger companies are doing exactly that.

"The larger mainland-based trucking firms, in particular, are exploiting that opportunity to make mass bookings and what's happening is they're making those bookings based on the principle they know the statistical profile of when they're doing business and how much," Byrne said, referring to the number of trucks booked and their client base.

Smaller, independent companies are not in a position to do this, Byrne said, because they don't have the capacity to be able to make bookings well in advance since they never know exactly what their client base is going to be at any given time.

Byrne said he has argued with Marine Atlantic that this creates an unfair playing field, giving larger companies a competitive advantage while smaller companies are at a "huge competitive disadvantage."

He said a competitor of these smaller companies could possibly even force them out of the marketplace.

Despite raising these concerns with Marine Atlantic, Byrne said, "There does not seem to be a strong indication, whatsoever, that they are concerned about it at all. The consequences have been put to them, but there does not seem to be any real effort to change the reservation system to prevent anti-competitive behaviour by certain trucking companies."

Byrne said the system can also be used as what he calls "a commercial weapon" by large retailers and box stores who can use their economic power to make large-scale bookings to supply their stores, while freezing out the capacity of smaller businesses, such as restaurants and businesses that rely on the ferry service to receive goods and services.

The meeting Monday in Mount Pearl is set to begin around 10 a.m. and Byrne said he's invited representatives of the province's independent transportation and trucking companies to attend, as well as the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, Canadian Federation of Independent Business and Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador.

Byrne said other provincial and federal cabinet ministers and politicians are also welcome to attend.

dss@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Marine Atlantic, Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, Canadian Federation of Independent Business and Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador

Geographic location: Mount Pearl, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia Moncton New Brunswick

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Recent comments

  • Norman
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    Marine Atlantic is ignorant to nfld,that ferry is already paid for by us through our own taxes that we pay.And it is our trans canada highway,i do not see anybody getting charged at any tol gates from north sydney to vancouver to use the trans canada highway throughout canada.

  • pat
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    the operation of marine atlantic has to be privitized M A is a continution of c n and their policies were never to suit the public but to suit themselves the dockyard ,bus service and c n rail never made money and had to be subsized every year now that they are private cos they are going concerns

  • Dave
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Build the TLH and fixed link already. Stop snivelling and start building a secondary route to/from the province.

  • Norman
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    Marine Atlantic is ignorant to nfld,that ferry is already paid for by us through our own taxes that we pay.And it is our trans canada highway,i do not see anybody getting charged at any tol gates from north sydney to vancouver to use the trans canada highway throughout canada.

  • pat
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    the operation of marine atlantic has to be privitized M A is a continution of c n and their policies were never to suit the public but to suit themselves the dockyard ,bus service and c n rail never made money and had to be subsized every year now that they are private cos they are going concerns

  • Dave
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Build the TLH and fixed link already. Stop snivelling and start building a secondary route to/from the province.