Marine Atlantic has up-and-down year

Andrew Robinson
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Passenger traffic down while commercial service continues to increase

Recent trends continued for the ferry service provider linking Newfoundland and Labrador to mainland Canada, as the number of passengers traveling with Marine Atlantic declined in 2011-12,

while commercial vehicle traffic increased.

For the year ending March 31, 2012, 365,786 passengers took advantage of 1,908 single crossings, down 4.4 per cent from 2010-11, when 382,522 passengers travelled with Marine Atlantic.

Over a five-year period, the number of people using the ferry service has declined each year, excluding 2009-10. Since 2007-08, passenger activity has declined by 12.2 per cent — Marine Atlantic served almost 417,000 passengers that year.

While passenger traffic may be down, commercial usage has been increasing for years.

For the fourth straight year, the number of commercial vehicles transported by Marine Atlantic increased, this time by 2.6 per cent over the previous year to 103,253. Since 2007-08, commercial vehicle traffic has increased by 14.7 per cent.

Speaking at the federal Crown corporation’s annual public meeting held Wednesday in St. John’s, vice-president of customer experience Donald Barnes said the decline in passenger traffic is consistent with regional travel trends.

“If you look back at the summer of 2011, which is what we’re talking about ... drive traffic was down all throughout Atlantic Canada,” said Barnes, noting the vast majority of Marine Atlantic’s passenger traffic comes during the summer months.

Given the strength of the Canadian dollar, Barnes said more travellers from Central and Eastern Canada were heading south of the border during the summer instead of coming to Atlantic Canada. At the same time, he said, fewer people from the United States were travelling north of the border.

Rob Crosbie, Marine Atlantic’s board chairman, said those trends appear to be “somewhat similar” in comparison to what took place during the most recent summer.


As for commercial traffic, Crosbie said activity with projects such as the Long Harbour nickel-processing facility are driving vehicular activity.

“Whether or not that continues past Long Harbour with Hebron coming on ... I expect there

still might be a lot of materials moved in for those projects,” said Crosbie.

One challenge Marine Atlantic continues to face is the increasing cost of fuel. According to vice-president of finance Shawn Leamon, the price paid for a litre of fuel increased by 23 per cent in 2011-12 in comparison to the previous year. The Crown corporation spent $33 million on fuel last year.

Marine Atlantic’s fuel consumption has benefited from the introduction of more fuel efficient vessels like the MV Blue Puttees and the MV Highlander.

Those two vessels combined to help reduce fuel consumption during the year by 8.5 million litres. Improved load and trip management were also contributing factors, according to Leamon.

The corporation spent $288.5 million in 2011-12 and generated $100.5 million in revenue through tariffs and other resources. It received $178.8 million via government subsidy.

Ferry rates were increased in 2012, and a $3.50 security fee was also introduced to help recoup costs associated with the federal government’s new Domestic Ferries Security Regulations. Marine Atlantic president and CEO Paul Griffin said no final decision has been made on its 2013 rate structure.

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: Marine Atlantic, MV Blue Puttees, Domestic Ferries Security Regulations

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, Long Harbour United States Hebron

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Recent comments

  • Fred Hup
    December 15, 2012 - 18:37

    Most vacationers travel in the summer but during the off season there is surplus passenger space. Most vacationers travel in the summer but during the off season there is surplus passenger space. Why not offer a multi trip off season discount card so Newfoundlanders who work in Nova Scotia can afford to go home more often. I used to make six trips a year when the cost per trip was reasonable. Now I make two crossings a year because of the cost. Ask McDonald’s about how to increase sales by offering a value service. They take a little money out of your pocket without trying to kill you all at once. How about Air Miles for off season trips, Marble Mountain Skier discount trip, etc.

  • david
    December 14, 2012 - 16:03

    BTW, dsiregrading the completely unsafe naturee of the new vessels (that issue won't get addressed until after one of them inevitably sinks ----classic government approach) has anyone noticed how completely beaten up and vandalized those "ctruise ships" are after just a coule of years? The WCs have gone from "laughably IKEA" to "horror movie highway gas station". Stall doors that have clearly been ripped off of hinges and rehung more than once. In the public areas, wood table tops and panelling are chipped everywhere some drunk could dig his nails in, the coating on the windows peeled wherever a braindead teenager could lift it up. The ships have been reduced back to floating scows in even less time than I would have bet. White linens, anyone?

  • W McLean
    December 13, 2012 - 18:14

    Labrador *IS* ''mainland Canada''.

    • Robin Matthews
      December 17, 2012 - 17:10

      Good point!

  • brian
    December 13, 2012 - 12:45

    One final comment, i can now see why the cost is so much "vice president of customer experience" guess there is also a president of customer experience! Too much fat pay cheques at the top!!! with people who keep the spin going and do not have the guts to tell it how it is!!!!

  • California Pete from NFLD
    December 13, 2012 - 12:16

    I gave up going to NL the darnn trip of the ferry cost got way out of hand. A $1000 bucks or more for my crosing with the moter home. Give it up sorry but no more for me

  • Barrelman
    December 13, 2012 - 10:22

    We relocated to Nova Scotia with the hope of someday moving back to Newfoundland. Forget it! The ferry is too damned expensive. After years as "frequent floaters" we're done with it and are content to stay on this side of the Cabot Strait. If we want to visit family in St. John's, there are plenty of seat sales offered on flights out of Halifax to St. John's.

  • Jack
    December 13, 2012 - 10:10

    Marine Atlantic has it self to blame for passenger traffic declines due to frequent fare and service charge increases that are well above the national average annual inflation rate often without regulatory approval, but they don't seem to care.

  • david
    December 13, 2012 - 07:58

    Marine Atlantic is a failed organization, a prime example of how inept and inefficient government can be. An 'Up and Down' year? When were the ups --- on paydays?

  • brian
    December 13, 2012 - 07:17

    people going south due to strenght of $, get real they see cost of ferry for vehicle and family both ways and say NO WAY!!!!. This service was put in place and supposed to cost no more than what it would cost to drive the same didtance. Then profit and greed sets in , no help from the Fed's . Just look at what it costs for us NFLDer's to get off this island , Shafted again , no one wants to fix it !!!!

    • Darlene
      December 13, 2012 - 07:52

      I agree with you 100% Brian. Our family travelled the ferry home every year sometimes twice a year. But with the price of the ferry, meals, gas & if you wanted to tow a trailer, forget it, cheapier to fly or go down south. Something needs to change, It has sure changed our vacations. Pretty sad when you can't afford to go home.