More ferry frustrations on Bell Island

Steve Bartlett
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— 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.

Twitter: @SteveBartlett_

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Bell Island, Portugal Cove Road, Newfoundland Wabana

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Recent comments

  • scott neimer
    July 26, 2012 - 13:21

    From what I am reading, resettle because people work in St. john's and it is not feasible to have a Ferry take them back and forth? WOW!!! Is it feasible to have a TCH run across the island? I hope no one here thinks there tax money covers the costs of the roads and highways as well as Healthcare and everythign else. Make people on BI pay for the Ferry repairs? Well, lets tear up 1km of road in front of your St. John's home and hwo abotu you pay for that road to be repaired? Resettle the people? Get every person off of the island of Newfounndland because no one in Ontario feels they should be paying for the Atlantic ferry system. Do people just comment to show their lack of education or is it just that they enjoy being biased?

  • DaveW
    July 26, 2012 - 13:07

    I always laugh at these responses about resettle Bell Island. they saqy ther Ferry stsem is too expensive and why whoudl they pay tax dollars for that Ferry. Are they really that ignorant enough to think if Canada was to use the same mindset and ignorant thinking that Newfoundland in a whole should not be resettled. It would even fit population wise into Northern Ontario. If you can live in Newfoundland people can live on Bell Island. If you can have a ferry to Newfoundland, Bell Islanders can have a ferry to that island.

  • Chris
    July 26, 2012 - 13:01

    Ha,ha,ha,ha - these comments are beyond laughable, they are becoming absolutely hilirous. Taxpayers, taxpayers, blah, blah, blah. I have been a taxpayer my whole life - I moved away and paid taxes to help support the Newfoundlanders that decided to stay behind on seasonal jobs or welfare. Now you are a have to province, finally working and are trying to put out your own people. The only good thing about Newfoundland anymore is the small communites and Islands. There is NOT going to be a relocation - in case you haven't noticed the population is INCREASING on Bell Island - it's the place to be. As for crime, you mean the fist fight the other night between to neighbors, hmm, doesn't seem to compare to the news around town today does it. Brett, you say what gives us the right, we have the right to live, the right to have a safe transportation anywhere in this province, including Bell Island - your tax dollars, give me a break - if we could all make the decision as to where are tax dollars is going do you think I would have mine going to the overpass on Topsail Road that is now almost 2 years in the making (just one very samll example). I am a commuting Bell Islander (taxpayer) , very proud of it, and will retire there, and finally be buried there with my parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers!!!!

  • my twocents
    July 26, 2012 - 13:01

    I am of the mind you know what your getting into by living on an Island. Expect delyas, weather, breakdowns, etc. It's inevitable but it's no ones fault but yours for choosing to live there.

  • what are you getting on with?
    July 26, 2012 - 12:29

    Tax payers dont just pay for the ferries, they pay for roads, highways, and any other way of transportation, its not about paying its about a safe or new ferry that wont be costing as much as the refit projects cost. Also people said to build a bridge, dont you thing that there would be more crime, with more people, more costly for land and to build there. IF YOU SAY people should resettle because of population just look at the other communities with alot less people but you dont herar about the ferry there because there are less trips less chance of accident, and more people commuting, to and from bell island, not just off bell island.

  • Taxpayer
    July 26, 2012 - 11:44

    I totally agree. We are the mighty “taxpayers” who always give, but never take. Why should those people be allowed to live there just because they want to? Oh, because it's 'home?" Because it’s where their precious families are from? How quaint, but outdated! We have been paying too long for them to live in a place that is economically unviable. Once the oil is gone, shut down the ferry as there is no more use for the place or its people -- it's only practical. Let them buy a home in Vancouver or Toronto. We ARE talking about Newfoundland, right? Your diatribe against Bell Islanders is identical to how some bigots on the mainland describe Newfoundlanders.

  • Razzle Brazil
    July 26, 2012 - 10:21

    i second the resettlement vote, why on earth the gov't should keep handing out to this island consistenly is beyond most. Crime alone on the island keeps me from wanting to visit. Add in the bunch that frequent the curling club every weekend to drink and fight and you have yourself a smaller version of fort mcmurray.

    • rs
      July 26, 2012 - 11:02

      Sounds like George Street not Bell Island...

  • Lynn
    July 26, 2012 - 10:10

    Why not build a causeway from Bell Island to Portugal Cove. If NB can build one to PEI why can't over Gov't do the same thing. Instead of spending all this money on repairs put it to good use. By having that causeway you may even increase the tourism to Bell Island. I for one would probably visit more than i do, however i am always wondering if the boat will break down again and how long will i have to wait in lineups. And also, not have to worry about the ice in the bay in the winter and the boat not being able to run.

    • Brett
      July 26, 2012 - 10:32

      PEI has a population of over 145,000. What is the population of Bell Island? I am not against a causeway - I just think that the cost of the solutions have to be looked at and a look at the tax money paid by the residents of Bell Island vs. the cost of the infrastructure/maintenance cost of the infrastructure needed to meet their needs. Remember that a % of the taxes paid by Bell Islanders does go to pay for MCP, roads, etc, etc... I'm curious what the additional taxes they pay that covers the cost of the ferry.

  • Alcatraz
    July 26, 2012 - 09:13

    There are more pressing ferry needs in other NL communites. You don't want fustrations, move off the Island. You don't mind fustrations, wait your turn.

  • Anne
    July 26, 2012 - 09:08

    Resettlement - to all of the ignorant minded people that suggest this - is there not something called the freedom of right to live where you want. Who gives you the right to judge? How would you like it if someone told you where you should live?? With the high prices of homes in St. John's and area are you going to buy the people from BI a home to live in? Or maybe the Government will offer them a $100 to move like they did in the 60's. One ferry that runs from BI that the Government bought is not allowed on the open seas anymore because of it being so old and so worn out. How about taking some of the money that the MP's are going to get from retirement and put back into the taxpayers system? And NO, I am not from BI and don't even live in NL.

    • BR
      July 26, 2012 - 10:17

      The people that suggest resettlement are not ignorant. They are practical. If you want to live on an island by yourself but work on the mainland, do you expect other taxpayers to pay the cost of getting you back and forth? The fares collected do not cover the cost so taxpayers make up the difference. Other islands should also be looked at. It may be home but is it worth the trouble? The people on BI can buy a house in SJ like the rest of the townies.

    • Brett
      July 26, 2012 - 11:19

      Anne - playing devil's advocate here - but what gives the residents of Bell Island the right to force the rest of the residents in NL to pay for their ferry - something they aren't paying enough for themselves? Maybe a surcharge on property tax for residents there that's enough to cover the new ferry/maintenance issues. Although - for all I know there's already something there. If there was though - you'd think it would have been easy to use the money earmarked for the ferry to buy a new one. The question really is whether the Bell Island residents have enough money to pay for the services they want/need.

  • Brian
    July 26, 2012 - 08:12

    With to high cost of continous repairs to these old boats and excessive costs of new ones plus the annual costs to operate they should seriously consider the causeway from Long Pond. If they can build a bridge to PEI surely they can build the causeway for a one time cost. look at the future savings!!!!

  • Rhonda
    July 26, 2012 - 08:09

    Stop building highways in and around st.john's and take this money towards a new boat.

  • MBC
    July 26, 2012 - 07:27

    why would anyone want to live on Bell Island?????

  • Jeremiah
    July 26, 2012 - 06:50

    Resettlement, anyone?

    • BR
      July 26, 2012 - 07:33

      If I lived on BI and worked elsewhere, I would move. They have had problems for years and it doesn't look like it will improve. Resettlement would make sense, as I think it would for any island, but I don't see that til the population decreases to the point govt can pay them to resettle.

    • Carol Taaffe
      July 26, 2012 - 07:56

      Mr Russell is basically ok with putting lives at risk as he races to the boat. How many others that live on Bell Island have that mentality. Resettlement sounds like the logical answer.

    • rs
      July 26, 2012 - 08:04

      A town of over 3000 people? Give me a break. The place is very much a liviable town and its ignorant people like you that give it a bad name. Why not relocate St. Anthony because the road up the NP is too long to maintain?? After all they have essentially the same population. Just for the record I am not from Bell Island nor do I live there, I'm just another person fed up with the "relocate" garbage...

    • BS
      July 26, 2012 - 08:38

      Got to a agree with RS, if you want to resettle Bell Island why stop there, why not Random Island, Ramea or Fogo Island. Keep your ignorant comments to yourself unless you have a viable solution. On a macro level, this comment is exactly what some people in Ontario and Quebec said about the island of Newfoundland. You wouldn't be too happy to hear that, would you?

    • Brad
      July 26, 2012 - 09:47

      You mean Newfoundland right Jeremiah?

    • BR
      July 26, 2012 - 10:26

      Workers fly NL to AB and back to work. If the flights were always delayed or cancelled and they couldn't get to their job, would they complain for years or would they move to the job? I don't hear people in St. Anthony complain as much as ferry users.