Marine Atlantic sells Caribou, Smallwood

Andrew Robinson
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Ships made thousands of voyages between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia

The MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood has been sold by Marine Atlantic. — Transcontinental Media file photo

The MV Caribou and MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood ferries will soon leave the port of North Sydney for perhaps the last time following news Marine Atlantic has sold the two vessels.

The ferries were sold to two separate companies who officially took ownership of the two ships last weekend. The Caribou’s new owner is based in St. Vincent and Grenadines, while the Smallwood’s owner is from the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific.

Tara Laing, a spokeswoman for Marine Atlantic, said terms of the sales would not be released, adding the Crown corporation has no knowledge of either company’s intended use for the vessels.

“Both of these vessels were the mainstay of our service for many years,” said Laing. “They were custom-built, and at the time were the largest icebreaking passenger ferries in North America.”

Marine Atlantic has revamped its fleet in recent years. 2009 marked the introduction of the MV Atlantic Vision, a 203-metre ship built in 2002 that can carry up to 531 vehicles. It mostly operates on the Argentia-to-North Sydney run.

This year witnessed the unveiling of two ships — the MV Blue Puttees and the MV Highlanders. Sharing the Port aux Basques-to-North Sydney run, the two ferries increased Marine Atlantic’s capacity for commercial and passenger traffic by 25 per cent.

“The capacity was definitely a main priority in the sense of needing to be able to transport our traffic,” said Laing. “We’ve continued to build from a commercial point of view. This year we transported 100,000 units for the first time ever in 12 months (April 2010 through March 2011), and it’s continuing to build even throughout the summer.”

According to figures made available by the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, total passenger movements reached 113,056 from January to June of this year, down three per cent compared to 2010.

Additionally, the newer vessels almost double the available cabin space for passengers, and Laing said those units have been selling well.

In 24 years of service, Marine Atlantic estimates the Caribou made over 16,000 trips, carrying approximately three million passengers and over two million vehicles. It was retired in November 2010.

The MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood started making trips for Marine Atlantic in 1990, making year-round journeys between Port aux Basques and North Sydney. Its last voyage on that route was made on March 10, 2011.

The sale leaves the MV Leif Ericson as the oldest vessel in Marine Atlantic’s fleet. The ship, built in 1991, underwent a significant refit this past winter, according to Laing. It only handles commercial traffic between Port aux Basques and North Sydney.

The sales were made through a London-based company specializing in the sale and purchase of ships, ICAP Shipping Ltd.

Laing said the two companies are in the process of placing crews on the vessels prior to departing. The Caribou and Smallwood ferries are both docked in North Sydney.

With files from The Cape Breton Post

Organizations: Marine Atlantic, Smallwood, MV Atlantic Vision MV Blue Puttees Department of Tourism Cape Breton Post

Geographic location: North Sydney, Port aux Basques, Newfoundland Nova Scotia Grenadines Marshall Islands North America North Sydney.arobinson

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Recent comments

  • Dave Spencer
    October 15, 2011 - 20:23

    Travelled to Newfoundland on the new ferries this summer and had a wonderful trip back home. Loved the luxury and the excellent crew!

  • KAty
    August 15, 2011 - 06:48

    All I ask is for each of the Marine Atlantic decision-makers to act like REAL travellers on a Port-aux-Basques or Argentia run at least four times per year - at least once being during the tourist season, and at least once being in February. No getting your assistant or secretary to do the booking, either. Do it yourself. Travel incognito. You're just another Marine Atlantic customer. I bet things would improve once you actually USE the service you're operating.

  • Don
    August 14, 2011 - 22:08

    James: it takes an extremely poorly made piece of equipment for it to be called garbage. It can be only counted on one hand the number of times I would have used the word for equipment in more thn forty years of experiance. I suggest the boats are just fine, will give a couple of decades of safe, reliable service and will have just as many detractors when they are retired from service and sold off to the South Seas.

  • RH
    August 13, 2011 - 12:40

    My wife and I sailed on the new ferries this June and I was very impressed. The service was great, the ships were of a high standard compared to other ferries we travelled on in other World travels. You should be proud of what you have .

    • David
      August 13, 2011 - 14:27

      How nice! But before you check the "Excellent" box, I do wish you could come back and try those boats in October...or November...or February....or April. Because (...funny story!...) this amounts to the 8/12 of the year that it kind of gets a tad bit 'breezy' and dirty around these parts. Incredibly, there are still us locals who tend to still NEED the service, and aren't as much into sizing up the wonderful wall murals and fancy carpets as we are wanting to simply get to the other side safely and on time. So I'd encourage you to please keep an eye out online of how many MA sailings are delayed and/or cancelled this coming winter...might be kind of fun for you.

  • David
    August 13, 2011 - 11:55

    The MV Caribou was perfectly adequate for that service..the problem is that Marine Atalntic couldn't run a cock fight, so changing ships is simply a red herring. The Caribou cost $121 million to have Quebec, FYI. I can't wait for somewone to reveal how much they sold it for.

  • james
    August 13, 2011 - 10:44

    get rid of the good and bring in garbage that,s what the new boats are like garbage A STEP BACKWARD

    • Kasco
      August 15, 2011 - 07:06

      Up to 2010 long line-ups and the inability to get a reservation for weeks was the norm for Marine Atlantic. 2011 and now no line-ups and all traffic is being moved on time and on schedule. Wayne Follett and his team deserve credit for a job well done. The results speak for themselves.