— Telegram file photo
Fiddler Kelly Russell wants the province to play a different tune about the Bell Island ferries.
While government has long maintained the vessels have some years left in them and that new boats won’t be crossing The Tickle in the near future, the Bell Island resident says something must be done now.
“They need to go shopping for a replacement boat,” Russell told The Telegram.
“Never mind (reaching a deal with) Kiewit and getting it built in Newfoundland. They have to revisit their planning and their priorities.”
He made the comments Wednesday afternoon, as the MV Beaumont Hamel was out of service and the MV Flanders operated on a load-and-go basis.
The Beaumont Hamel was taken off the run after an electrical issue was identified Tuesday evening.
Transportation and Works said late Wednesday afternoon contractors had identified and repaired two problems, one with a fuel pump and another with a voltage regulator.
The ferry returned to service after sea trials were successful late Wednesday.
The department noted the issues were identified by a new electrical load monitoring system installed during recent upgrades.
The issues were the latest troubles for the Beaumont Hamel.
It was put out of commission for about a month and a half May 30, after it lost reverse propulsion and collided with the dock in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s. On Friday morning, it was taken out of service for a couple of hours due to a problem with its bow thruster.
“We’ll see how long she lasts this time,” Russell said. “That’s twice she’s broken down in the past week, since she’s had major repairs and passed an inspection.”
Wabana Mayor Gary Gosine says the immediate solution is adding a new swing vessel to the provincial fleet.
“It’s not only this community, there’s a lot of other communities still suffering,” he said.
“Right now, with the Nonia down on refit, if anything else happens in the whole province, there’s nothing else to give in terms of a swing vessel. Until the new boats are built, we need a new vessel and we don’t care where that boat comes from, and they’re out there to get.”
Evan Whiteway of St. John’s travels to Bell Island regularly. He thinks the problems have gone on too long.
“I think they should step up and listen to the people on Bell Island when they say that they need new boats,” he said.
Russell had a gig at Uptown in St. John’s last night, and as he spoke to The Telegram, was assessing how long he’d have to wait in the lineup to get across to Portugal Cove.
If the Beaumont Hamel was not back in service by the time his St. John’s show was over, it’d mean the last boat for Bell Island leaves earlier and he’d be putting his pedal to the metal.
“Basically I have to race from my gig to Portugal Cove and hope there are no police on Portugal Cove Road as I’m doing it in order to make the boat home tonight.”
If the Beaumont Hamel is breaking down so much now, Russell wonders what state the ship will be in in the coming years.
“The plan (government) has put in place has to be re-evaluated,” he says. “They have to go shopping for a replacement boat because what they got is not covering it.”
Transportation and Works Minister Tom Hedderson was unavailable Wednesday, but a commitment has been made for a future interview.