First new ferries expected by fall

Rob Antle
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Previous timelines won't be met; Minister defends pace of construction for vessels

Two new provincial ferries are set to hit the water late this fall, according to Transportation Minister Tom Hedderson.

That's later than first expected, and more delays are likely for other new vessels that will bolster the province's aging fleet.

The MV Nonia  Telegram file photo

Two new provincial ferries are set to hit the water late this fall, according to Transportation Minister Tom Hedderson.

That's later than first expected, and more delays are likely for other new vessels that will bolster the province's aging fleet.

But Hedderson is defending the pace of ferry construction, saying the ships will be built - eventually.

"It's a catch-up game, and we understand that," Hedderson said in an interview.

"But the significant dollars that we've put in are making significant differences. We plan - and not always can we stick to the timeline - but we have made the commitment, and the money. It is going as fast as (it) can, given the circumstances."

The current Conservative government has consistently slammed the previous Liberal administration for its lack of action to renew the fleet.

But nearly seven years into the Tories' own mandate, no new ships have touched the water.

The government awarded contracts for two medium-sized ferries in 2008.

The first vessel was expected to be delivered by the end of 2009; the second by the spring of 2010.

They are currently still under construction in Marystown. The ferries, when operational, are expected to be used on the St. Brendan's and Little Bay Islands-Long Island runs.

A series of previous timelines for ferry construction will not be met, Hedderson acknowledged.

In 2006, then-transportation minister John Hickey said the province planned to construct five new ferries within five years.

That timeline would see those five ships plying the waters by the fall of 2011.

Instead, it seems likely that only the two current ships under construction will be in service by then.

No decisions have yet been made on the construction of a third medium-sized ship, although its propulsion system has been secured.

Hedderson said that decision will wait until the current two vessels are launched and will depend on costs.

The two ships currently under construction were originally priced at roughly $25 million apiece.

Hedderson could not say whether the ships will come in on budget.

Meanwhile, it will be another year for the completion of detailed plans for a large ferry.

That ship will replace the MV Earl Winsor on the Fogo Island run.

The Winsor is 38 years old.

Plans are also underway to have six smaller ferries built in the province, Hedderson noted.

Those ships will work mainly on routes along Newfoundland's south coast.

Design work should take about a a year, the minister said.

"So over the next four to five years we should be in good shape to have these 10 vessels replaced," Hedderson said.

But while the government has touted the amount budgeted for ferry construction in recent years, the actual amount spent has consistently been much lower.

In the three fiscal years from 2007-08 through 2009-10, the government budgeted - and announced - a total of nearly $93 million to build new ferries.

But the province actually spent just a shade under $30 million.

The budget for ferry construction is $55 million this fiscal year.

"Obviously, very simply, we've taken the bull by the horns," Hedderson said.

"It's not an easy task, especially when the shipbuilding industry had not been developed over the years as well."

The last provincial ferry to be built, he noted, was the MV Flanders.

That Flanders was built in 1990.

rantle@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: Marystown, Fogo Island, Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Isedabye
    July 20, 2010 - 13:03

    what a mess this provinces public tendering system is in...tens(if not hundreds) of millions of taxpayers dollars are pilfered away by each successive reigning monarchy...this government fought tooth and nail and then some to prevent alot of the sculduggery to be brought to the publics attention through court challenge after court challenge...they got theyre way after 8 + years and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent through a little known law that the rest of Canada did away with decades ago...even rewarded one of the main players with a judges position for their role in saying and doing whatever needed to be done and said...this province will never change...sure a few million now for ferries that will eventually cost millions more than necessary but so what its only the money you and i work each and every day so that government can pilfer away...AGAIN and AGAIN and ....

  • Ed.
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    This is very good news but a causeway should be built instead of a ferry for the Long Island Run.