Nearly-new vessels to sail Gulf run

Rob Antle
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Marine Atlantic chartering two ships to replace Caribou, Smallwood

Ottawa is attempting to put Marine Atlantic on a steadier course, chartering two retrofitted ships to take over the Gulf ferry run effective next summer.

"We're looking at a fix for not one year, two years, five years, but a decade or more," Rob Merrifield, the minister of state for transport in the Harper government, said at a news conference in St. John's Friday.

Marine Atlantic will charter two retrofitted vessels from Swedens Stena Group of Companies for the Port aux Basques to North Sydney, N.S., ferry run. The ships like the one pictured here in an artists rendition are expected to be in operation by next su

Ottawa is attempting to put Marine Atlantic on a steadier course, chartering two retrofitted ships to take over the Gulf ferry run effective next summer.

"We're looking at a fix for not one year, two years, five years, but a decade or more," Rob Merrifield, the minister of state for transport in the Harper government, said at a news conference in St. John's Friday.

The two ships will replace the MV Caribou and MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood on the Port aux Basques to North Sydney, N.S., run.

The Caribou and Smallwood were built in the late 1980s. Their replacements - MV Stena Trader and MV Stena Traveller - were built in 2006 and 2007.

The two vessels will undergo significant refits at a yard in Germany before taking over the Gulf run.

Merrifield called the marine connection between Port aux Basques and North Sydney the "umbilical cord" between Newfoundland and the mainland.

But that cord has been fraying in recent years, and was recently the subject of a scathing report by federal Auditor General Sheila Fraser.

Merrifield said Ottawa has "heard loud and clear" complaints about capacity and on-time delivery of services.

He said the nearly-new ships will address those concerns.

They are each rated for nearly 1,000 passengers, or roughly the same as the current ships.

But the new ferries will have 50 per cent more capacity for vehicles and freight.

That will help avoid trouble caused by bad weather or maintenance requirements, said Rob Crosbie, chairman of Marine Atlantic's board of directors.

"The big issue around service quality and capacity is that if you don't have the capacity to catch up, then the service quality is going to suffer for a long time after the incident," Crosbie said. "So you're never able to catch up. And this extra capacity will allow us to catch up fairly quickly."

Marine Atlantic president and CEO Wayne Follett called Friday a "watershed day" for the Crown corporation.

Follett said the average vessel age in Marine Atlantic's fleet will drop to eight years from 21 years when the Stena ships go into service.

The charter agreement announced Friday will run for five years.

Among the changes planned to the ships before they go into service here are: a reduction in length of 12 metres, back to their original design; increasing the number of beds to 300; installing hoistable car decks; adding lounges with reclining seats on each level of the vessel.

Merrifield also hinted at more announcements coming down the pipe about improvements to Marine Atlantic service. He suggested those plans could include infrastructure changes to docking facilities in Port aux Basques.

The constitutionally mandated ferry link has long been a favourite whipping boy of passengers, lobby groups and provincial politicians.

Reaction was generally positive Friday, and the feds hope the new vessels will change those negative views.

"I look forward to seeing an improved customer experience as these ships come into service," Merrifield noted.

rantle@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Marine Atlantic

Geographic location: Port aux Basques, Ottawa, North Sydney St. John's Germany Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • jerry
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    these boats look nice and all. but the federal goverment is saying they can hold 1000 passengers. i have look up the boats on the stene website and right now the boats can only hold 300. so i know the boats are undergoing a major refit but to add 700 hundred more to what they can already hold its going to have to be one major refit. i hope someone has the answers for all of us who are left wondwering as usual.

  • Jim
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Same old, same old, why not build another ferry like the Smallwood or Caribou, nope just rent. It's the easiest thing to do. Funny thing is these old boats filled the bill, sleepers, cabins, good seats, this is not a cruise, its a crossing and we want comfort, speed and reliability. Not too much to ask, is it.

  • Joan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    thank-you ,mr.Manning and Mr.Harper..It's nice to see some politician doing something for nl., unlike your provincial cousins and Danny, who just doesn't care about rural nl....

  • Dave
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    wouldn't ya know from nl writes: Howie....you do know that in the terms of Union, it IS Ottawa's responsibility to maintain the 'link' to Canada...as the extension of the 'TRANS CANADA HIGHWAY' commonly known today as HWY #1 ?????

    No it isn't. Read the Terms of Union buddy!

  • George
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    I have to laugh at all the naysayers. Some people cannot fine anything positive no matter what the message. Lets give this a chance people before we write it off as a bad experiment. I think that Marine Atlantic can do whatever they want; Give each traveler his/her own personal yacht and some people will still be looking for the negatives. Sure it isn't a good service, but right here we see attempts to improve and what do we have? The naysayers jummping on a bandwagon and calling it a failure before the boats even arrive.

  • David
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    So, we're back to being renters. Now THAT'S commitment to the service!

    Here's your bonus, Mr. Follett.

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    Let us all hope and pray that someone has done their homework. We can all remember that last time Marine Atlantic - experimented- with the Stena Group of Companies, who could forget the saga of the Stena Nordica & Atlantica ships.

    We had to live through this nightmare before they finally built the Caribou & the Smallwood.

    I don't know about you but I am tired of being a - guinea pig - for Marine Atlantic.

    How many times can it take before you get something right?

  • George
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    David: No I don't work for Marine Atlantic. I am simply willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the people who manage and run this service. There has been constant negatism in the media for some time now on the MA service and as soon as there is an attempt to make improvements people like you cannot say one positive word or give any credit.

    Don't worry old chap: I have no problem identifying issues with the service if this does not make the required gains. I have no problem expressing my frustration or points of view farther along then in this sort of forum. But I am willling to give them a chance to prove themselves. Try to do the same.

  • Jo
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    George, what a relief... there is intelligent life out there. Yours is the only comment here that demonstrates any rational thought. I've never had a problem with Marine Atlantic... they've always gotten me from point A to point B. Sometimes a few hours late but hey, if anyone wants a perfect schedule and total comfort they can just fly instead. I mean, flights are never off schedule or cancelled because of bad weather, right?

  • Anon
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    With the money spent on the ferry system and the money lost because of its sometimes terrible service and lack of consistency, they could have just built a bridge or a tunnel.

  • Kasco
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    Atlantic Vision increased the volume of traffic that can be carried on the Gulf run, commercial traffic.The Stena Trader and the Stena Traveller will have the same result, more traffic carried each run both passenger and commercial traffic. Were is the down side?
    It will be sad to see the Caribou and Smallwood taken out of service but it is time. Both are no longer able to provide the service that is required.

  • David
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    Right on George...let's wait until the $175 million is spent, and then we'll think about it. Because it will certianly be worthwhile to discuss what needs to be done in hindsight...that's the way it's always been done, right?

    As far as giving everynoe a personal yacht...ummmmmm....the whole point of having a ferry system is so that someone who wants to cross hte gulf doesn't need their our own yacht.

    Do you work at Marine Atlantic? If not, you really should apply....you're their kind of guy.

  • howie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Why do we turn to the feds for this?
    Is it not our province that requires these boats?
    I have to laugh at you joseph, first off this should be our responsibility to fix not some govt in ottawa.
    Another province in Canada has recently upgraded their sailing routes with brand new ferries, paid for by the people of their own province.
    People like you make me so sad, always on the take, hands out like some pauper.
    You want new boats suggest to your MLA that we have new boats and pay for them to be built.
    I for one will not look a gift horse in the mouth, i would rather have new boats built right here at home.
    The truthiness of the matter is this, dem boats costs money joe, and am sure you are unwilling to have Danny pony it up to pay the diffference in fed commitments to the final goal.
    Time to grow up joe, and tow this isle till she slams headlong into Nova Scotia.

    Howie

  • wouldn't ya know
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Howie....you do know that in the terms of Union, it IS Ottawa's responsibility to maintain the 'link' to Canada...as the extension of the 'TRANS CANADA HIGHWAY' commonly known today as HWY #1 ?????

  • David
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    Credit? You want to give them credit?! Benefit of the doubt...Give them a chance? Wow.

    What color is the sky in your world, George?

  • joseph
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Here we go again another band-aid solution!,good try so called federal gov't!,you'll have to do a lot better to get my vote!,Like NEVER!!!!!

  • kevin
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    It's a start with larger ships. But shorting the hull, what will that do to the handling of the ships ? Changing the dock in Port aux Basque why waste the money. Put the dock in Stephenville at least we don't have to worry about getting into port in bad weather or the Highway at the wreck house.

  • dawn
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    yeah and the fact they hold 1000 passengers as opposed to 1500..yeah really..that makes alot of sense..NOT!!

  • wouldnt ya know
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    David -- No it isn't. Read the Terms of Union buddy! ---Well, now 'buddy' YOU read the terms.. specifically terms 31, 'Public Services, Works and Property .... 313(a) through (L) term 32(1) (2) (3) In particular 32(1) Quote...Canada will maintain in accordance with the traffic offering a freight and passenger steamship service between North Sydney and Port aux Basques, which on completion of a motor highway between Corner Brook and Port aux Basques, will include suitable provision for the carriage of motor vehicles as well as (2) and (3)which affects rates with respect to the Island.....Hence.....YES IT DOES!!! Thank you Ottawa!! ;-))))

  • r obb
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    marine atlantic needs new boats and new faces,,the new booking system is a mess,,,,time to clean house

  • Peter
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Dont insult the Scandinavian ferry service and ships you are in for a surprise in luxery.
    I have been on several of thair ferrys and I can only say to sail in the Scandinavian waters has alwys been a great experience, fun and pleasure.

  • jerry
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    these boats look nice and all. but the federal goverment is saying they can hold 1000 passengers. i have look up the boats on the stene website and right now the boats can only hold 300. so i know the boats are undergoing a major refit but to add 700 hundred more to what they can already hold its going to have to be one major refit. i hope someone has the answers for all of us who are left wondwering as usual.

  • Jim
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    Same old, same old, why not build another ferry like the Smallwood or Caribou, nope just rent. It's the easiest thing to do. Funny thing is these old boats filled the bill, sleepers, cabins, good seats, this is not a cruise, its a crossing and we want comfort, speed and reliability. Not too much to ask, is it.

  • Joan
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    thank-you ,mr.Manning and Mr.Harper..It's nice to see some politician doing something for nl., unlike your provincial cousins and Danny, who just doesn't care about rural nl....

  • Dave
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    wouldn't ya know from nl writes: Howie....you do know that in the terms of Union, it IS Ottawa's responsibility to maintain the 'link' to Canada...as the extension of the 'TRANS CANADA HIGHWAY' commonly known today as HWY #1 ?????

    No it isn't. Read the Terms of Union buddy!

  • George
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    I have to laugh at all the naysayers. Some people cannot fine anything positive no matter what the message. Lets give this a chance people before we write it off as a bad experiment. I think that Marine Atlantic can do whatever they want; Give each traveler his/her own personal yacht and some people will still be looking for the negatives. Sure it isn't a good service, but right here we see attempts to improve and what do we have? The naysayers jummping on a bandwagon and calling it a failure before the boats even arrive.

  • David
    July 01, 2010 - 20:17

    So, we're back to being renters. Now THAT'S commitment to the service!

    Here's your bonus, Mr. Follett.

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 20:17

    Let us all hope and pray that someone has done their homework. We can all remember that last time Marine Atlantic - experimented- with the Stena Group of Companies, who could forget the saga of the Stena Nordica & Atlantica ships.

    We had to live through this nightmare before they finally built the Caribou & the Smallwood.

    I don't know about you but I am tired of being a - guinea pig - for Marine Atlantic.

    How many times can it take before you get something right?

  • George
    July 01, 2010 - 20:17

    David: No I don't work for Marine Atlantic. I am simply willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the people who manage and run this service. There has been constant negatism in the media for some time now on the MA service and as soon as there is an attempt to make improvements people like you cannot say one positive word or give any credit.

    Don't worry old chap: I have no problem identifying issues with the service if this does not make the required gains. I have no problem expressing my frustration or points of view farther along then in this sort of forum. But I am willling to give them a chance to prove themselves. Try to do the same.

  • Jo
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    George, what a relief... there is intelligent life out there. Yours is the only comment here that demonstrates any rational thought. I've never had a problem with Marine Atlantic... they've always gotten me from point A to point B. Sometimes a few hours late but hey, if anyone wants a perfect schedule and total comfort they can just fly instead. I mean, flights are never off schedule or cancelled because of bad weather, right?

  • Anon
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    With the money spent on the ferry system and the money lost because of its sometimes terrible service and lack of consistency, they could have just built a bridge or a tunnel.

  • Kasco
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    Atlantic Vision increased the volume of traffic that can be carried on the Gulf run, commercial traffic.The Stena Trader and the Stena Traveller will have the same result, more traffic carried each run both passenger and commercial traffic. Were is the down side?
    It will be sad to see the Caribou and Smallwood taken out of service but it is time. Both are no longer able to provide the service that is required.

  • David
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    Right on George...let's wait until the $175 million is spent, and then we'll think about it. Because it will certianly be worthwhile to discuss what needs to be done in hindsight...that's the way it's always been done, right?

    As far as giving everynoe a personal yacht...ummmmmm....the whole point of having a ferry system is so that someone who wants to cross hte gulf doesn't need their our own yacht.

    Do you work at Marine Atlantic? If not, you really should apply....you're their kind of guy.

  • howie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:07

    Why do we turn to the feds for this?
    Is it not our province that requires these boats?
    I have to laugh at you joseph, first off this should be our responsibility to fix not some govt in ottawa.
    Another province in Canada has recently upgraded their sailing routes with brand new ferries, paid for by the people of their own province.
    People like you make me so sad, always on the take, hands out like some pauper.
    You want new boats suggest to your MLA that we have new boats and pay for them to be built.
    I for one will not look a gift horse in the mouth, i would rather have new boats built right here at home.
    The truthiness of the matter is this, dem boats costs money joe, and am sure you are unwilling to have Danny pony it up to pay the diffference in fed commitments to the final goal.
    Time to grow up joe, and tow this isle till she slams headlong into Nova Scotia.

    Howie

  • wouldn't ya know
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Howie....you do know that in the terms of Union, it IS Ottawa's responsibility to maintain the 'link' to Canada...as the extension of the 'TRANS CANADA HIGHWAY' commonly known today as HWY #1 ?????

  • David
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    Credit? You want to give them credit?! Benefit of the doubt...Give them a chance? Wow.

    What color is the sky in your world, George?

  • joseph
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    Here we go again another band-aid solution!,good try so called federal gov't!,you'll have to do a lot better to get my vote!,Like NEVER!!!!!

  • kevin
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    It's a start with larger ships. But shorting the hull, what will that do to the handling of the ships ? Changing the dock in Port aux Basque why waste the money. Put the dock in Stephenville at least we don't have to worry about getting into port in bad weather or the Highway at the wreck house.

  • dawn
    July 01, 2010 - 19:54

    yeah and the fact they hold 1000 passengers as opposed to 1500..yeah really..that makes alot of sense..NOT!!

  • wouldnt ya know
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    David -- No it isn't. Read the Terms of Union buddy! ---Well, now 'buddy' YOU read the terms.. specifically terms 31, 'Public Services, Works and Property .... 313(a) through (L) term 32(1) (2) (3) In particular 32(1) Quote...Canada will maintain in accordance with the traffic offering a freight and passenger steamship service between North Sydney and Port aux Basques, which on completion of a motor highway between Corner Brook and Port aux Basques, will include suitable provision for the carriage of motor vehicles as well as (2) and (3)which affects rates with respect to the Island.....Hence.....YES IT DOES!!! Thank you Ottawa!! ;-))))

  • r obb
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    marine atlantic needs new boats and new faces,,the new booking system is a mess,,,,time to clean house

  • Peter
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    Dont insult the Scandinavian ferry service and ships you are in for a surprise in luxery.
    I have been on several of thair ferrys and I can only say to sail in the Scandinavian waters has alwys been a great experience, fun and pleasure.