The Argentia Port Corp. Inc. has called for expressions of interest in a cargo vessel service between this province and Port of Belledune, N.B.
Last month, Peter MacKay, federal defence minister and the minister responsible for this province, announced $2.5 million for a roll-on/roll-off ramp for shipping operations at Argentia. Belledune already has a roll-on/roll-off ramp.
Argentia Port Corp. business development and marketing manager Chris Newhook said that’s about half the cost and the operation will need provincial and/or private backing as well.
He said the idea of the proposed year-round operation being exclusive to cargo is to improve logistics for trucking outfits moving freight to the province. Newhook said it should be more efficient for freight coming from or going to Ontario and west.
For years, truckers have been complaining about Marine Atlantic’s ferry service. Currently the only year-round service is from North Sydney, N.S., to Port aux Basques.
The proposed service would need vessels to withstand high winds and ice year round.
“The plan is to operate two runs a week,” Newhook said.
“We have to have all these players lined up properly to make it work.”
The Argentia location, said Newhook, is ideal for serving the Avalon Peninsula.
If all funding were secured for the project, he said it could be up and running in a couple of years.
Greer Hunt of Hunt’s Transport, based in Mount Pearl, is interested in both moving cargo through Argentia-Belledune and in possibly submitting a proposal in the request for expressions of interest.
Hunt, fed up with Marine Atlantic’s service, leased a barge to ship goods from southern Ontario to Conception Bay.
His service starts up for this season April 21 and that run is booked up.
He will make nine runs this year — one every three weeks.
“I would love to see it, to be honest with you,” Hunt said Monday of the Argentia proposal.
“It’s good for Newfoundland and good for the transport industry.”
He said both Argentia and Belledune are good choices.
“Another route to the island would hopefully move products here more efficiently,” Hunt said, adding both trucking firms and consumers would benefit through fewer delays and fresher products at decent costs.
“Marine Atlantic right now cannot supply the service with what it needs,” Hunt said.
He said that doesn’t let the federal government off the hook of its obligation to provide dependable ferry service to the province, whether it’s for cargo or people.
“They should be offering a much better service.”
“This is the worst service I’ve ever seen. The service the past week has been terrible.”