The largest new ferry the provincial government has commissioned in recent memory may not be built in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Transportation Minister Tom Hedderson said he hopes the replacement ferry to serve Fogo and Change Islands will be built in the province, but if it means delays, the government will get the boat built in Norway or Germany or somewhere else.
“We’re going down a road now where we need, within the next year, to have everything in place to make a decision as to where we’re going to build this particular ferry,” Hedderson told reporters. “We’re at a point right now that we need to move forward on this particular ferry for Fogo Island and Change Islands, and any delay will delay us down the road in getting this in the water.”
The province had hoped the MV Capt. Earl W. Winsor’s replacement would be built at the shipyard in Marystown — the only facility large enough to handle the work — but a spat between the government and shipyard owner Peter Kiewit and Sons has been causing issues.
The province wanted three medium-sized ferries built in Marystown, and two have already been delivered, but there’s a dispute about cost-overruns.
Hedderson wouldn’t name an exact number, but he said the dispute was “millions” on the two ferries, and until the parties reach an agreement, construction on the third ferry won’t begin.
When it comes to the Winsor replacement, Hedderson said he would like to see the boat built in Marystown, but he won’t wait.
Any shipyard around the world is welcome to get in touch with the provincial government as it seeks expressions of interest.
“One of the possibilities is that Peter Kiewit will put in an offer or an expression of interest, and we could very well be going down that road,” Hedderson said.
If Kiewit isn’t the way the government chooses to go, Hedderson said he wants to be in a position to award a contract to someone else as quickly as possible, likely some time early next year.
Liberal transportation critic Eddie Joyce jumped on Hedderson’s announcement, saying the PC government was going back on a promise.
“If you go back in the House of Assembly and in the media, I heard the former premier and all the ministers saying the boats will be built in Newfoundland and Labrador. They guaranteed it,” he said. “Obviously, they didn’t follow through on their commitment.”
New Democrat MHA George Murphy said the cost overruns dispute just comes down to government priorities, and based on the current problems, it will be years before any of the ferries will finally be delivered.
“We’re told there’s plenty of cash. Government chose to upset the ferry schedule a long time ago by pouring money into Nalcor,” Murphy said. “Maybe by the next election year you might see another one or two roll off a dock somewhere. The real pity about that is it’s probably not going to happen in Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Hedderson wouldn’t put a price tag on the new ferry to be built in the province. He would only say it will be substantially more than the $27 million the government spent on each of the medium-sized ferries.