No more Nonia

Barb
Barb Sweet
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The Bell Island ferry the Nonia in 2011

The province is finally pulling the plug on the troubled ferry Nonia.

The Telegram has been telling the story of the Nonia for several years through exclusive reports on the state of the used foreign-built vessel.

In the last month, it also asked about the Nonia’s troubles in drydocks, but received no details from Transportation and Works.

Friday, the department issued a news release on the ferry system,  and announced several paragraphs down that the Nonia is done.

“The MV Nonia is currently in drydock, and is not expected to return to service until January 2014,” Transportation and Works Minister Paul Davis said in the news release.

“Given this time frame and the estimated cost of $9 million to complete repairs, a decision was made to remove it from the provincial fleet, have it decommissioned and sold. The vessel was acquired in 1999 at a cost of $1.2 million. Including purchasing costs, approximately $19 million has been spent to date to keep it in service.”

Davis told The Telegram Friday  in the latest refit Transport Canada said the thickness and strength of the steel in parts of the vessel’s superstructure didn’t meet regulations.

That meant rebuilding decks, cabins, lounges and the front wall of the wheelhouse bridge, requiring dismantling of electronics.

While most asbestos had been removed years ago, there were some sections not touched that would have to be dealt with under the proposed work. On top of that, the estimate for refit costs was

$2 million annually over the next five years.

It came down to a concern of throwing good money after bad, Davis said.

But the province hasn’t soured on acquiring used vessels on the world market, including buying — as well as short-term and long-term leases — to make up for the shortage of ferries while it goes ahead with time-consuming vessel construction, he said. The used vessels have to meet stringent Transport Canada standards, he added, and some private operators under contract to the province already purchase used vessels and refit them.

The MV Nonia was once dubbed a “rust bucket” by then Tory opposition politicians and nicknamed the “MV No-Go” by Bell Island residents, where it has operated as a swing vessel.

Built in Estonia in the mid-’80s, the ferry — originally called the Ahelaid and known as the Hull 100 when it arrived here — has been a money pit since the Brian Tobin government bought it.

The Liberals then expected to have it operating for $2 million.

Efforts to make the Nonia seaworthy dragged on and on.

The Conservatives continued piling money into it after they gained power in 2003.

By the time it met Canadian standards and was put into service six years after its purchase, the price tag was five times greater than anticipated.

Since entering the provincial ferry system as a swing ship in 2005, it has caused considerable headaches for users.

The low points include running aground near St. Brendan’s Island in 2006 and being so unreliable on the Bell Island run that residents there gave it its unflattering nickname.

Finding parts has been one of the biggest challenges in keeping the Nonia going. A number of key components are unique to the Russian manufacturer that built the ship. So much so, that before the province bought the ferry, recommendations were made that its sister ship be purchased, too, for parts.

That the ship's instruction manual is written in Russian has reportedly been another obstacle.

A Transport Canada memo written in those early years expressed concern about the quality of vessels for sale on the foreign market and Canada becoming a dumping ground for junk ships.

Friday, the province also announced a rejigging of the provincial ferry service, which Davis described as a domino effect.

Following refit, the Hazel McIsaac is returning to the Green Bay run, with the Sound of Islay moving to the St. Brendan’s ferry service.

 The Grace Sparkes is moving from the St. Brendan’s run to be deployed to Bell Island as the replacement for the Beaumont Hamel, which is entering refit

Feb. 18 for about 10 weeks.

The Beaumont Hamel will provide service to Fogo Island upon completing required refit work. This will enable the Capt. Earl W. Winsor to enter refit, where

it’s expected to remain until late June. Upon the return of the Capt. Earl W Winsor, the Beaumont Hamel will go back to Bell Island and the Grace Sparkes will return to St. Brendan’s.

Davis acknowledged the switching around of vessels will cause logistical problems for some communities used to large vessels.

For Fogo, which has a bustling tourist season, the smaller Beaumont Hamel is a concern. Its usual ferry can accommodate almost twice the number of vehicles and the best-case scenario for getting the Winsor back is late June.

“We’re still looking at options to mitigate those negative impacts on all these ferry communities,” Davis said.

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Organizations: Transport Canada, Hull 100

Geographic location: Bell Island, Estonia, Canada Green Bay Sound of Islay Fogo Island

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Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Tony
    November 27, 2013 - 14:57

    To be accurate, the ship was actually built in Latvia, in their capital city Riga shipyard, while the country was under former Soviet Union power.

  • Corrections
    February 23, 2013 - 17:07

    - the ferry is built in 1986 in Riga, Latvia (not in Estonia) - the project was semi-military: Soviet tank transport, usable in civilian traffic during non-war times - four ferries of this type were in use in Estonia and named after local small islands - two of them were sold for scrapping price: Vohilaid was scrapped, Ahelaid became Nonia -Kõrgelaid and Harilaid serve in Estonia as reserve ferries

  • Pam Frampton
    February 17, 2013 - 12:02

    The Telegram covered the story of the Nonia and all its many flaws from the time it was purchased and onward.

  • Frank Tock
    February 17, 2013 - 09:41

    Spending millions on ferries to service remote, sparsely-populated locales that continue to lose denizens to out-migration, and where there is no net economic growth to justify supporting such capital-intensive infrastructure... seems to me to be the heights of foolishness.

  • Observation
    February 17, 2013 - 06:22

    People living in unsustainable communities should be prepared for what is going to happen over the next ten years. Ferry and road service to these communities will be rationalized. If you moved everyone off of Bell Island and gave them a new home on the mainland, the government would be in money in less than 10 years. If people want to live there, $20 a trip might cover it. No economic driver at all. I can't believe that people are building new homes over there.

    • Brad
      February 17, 2013 - 13:47

      Sure, lets move people off NL while we're at it. Tired of my tax dollars funding people in NL who are lazy and work off welfare... ...yea, thought you'd want that...can't have your cake and eat it too bud.

  • Michelle
    February 16, 2013 - 23:03

    Bye-bye No-Go! (The name for the Nonia by Bell Islanders) What a complete debacle and ultimate waste of money. It's really hard to believe that this happened. Who in God's name thought that this was a viable idea in the first place? The people of Newfoundland deserve better. Now that the Nonia is up for sale, I hope it's for scrap. I would hate to think that some poor unsuspecting taxpayers don't end up having to ride that piece of crap in another part of the world.

  • Bellislander
    February 16, 2013 - 14:03

    To "Not Impressed" Your negative comments should be towards the people who are responsible for allowing such situation not the Bellislanders. We didnt' want to lose the Beaumont Hamel but we can't blame Fogo people for it. It's not the fault of any communities but the government 's fault. The Grace Sparkes is a lot smaller than the Beaumont and we will have to put up with long line ups and hours of waiting also. What we need for new dependable ferries not to bitch about who gets what. No one in communities are responsible for that ..only the government! As far as lay off I do believe that it goes by seniority. We have people from Fogo working on the Bell Island run.

  • Bill
    February 16, 2013 - 13:07

    This very visible story of government bungling is just a mere blip in the total incompetence in the Division of Transportation and Works that runs the provincial ferry service.

  • Bell Islander
    February 16, 2013 - 13:00

    This is for "not impressed". I'd say too bad for the people of st. brendans, they dont own the hazel, traffic on the st brendans run dont even justify a 16 car ferry, 2 or 3 cars each crossing. this is just like when bell island loses the beaumont hamel when she goes to fogo to fill in, we have no say in the matter,,,,,the government owns these ferrys, they can put them where they see fit. have a nice day

  • Randy
    February 16, 2013 - 09:11

    My goodness, isn't it ridiculoius that they can't even have a decent engineer go look at this type of junk before they purchase?? Buying a USED ferry from ESTONIA???????? Dear God,how inept, incompetent, and downright DUMB a move!Then, isn't there any engineer who could have estimated that this piece of junk would cost a small fortune to put in service????? I know this is simplifying things a bit, but if it looks like junk, runs like junk, has constant issues like junk, ,,,,,welll it may be junk!!! Disgraceful, a private employer would clean house, and rid his employ of such incompetent , useless staff.

    • Eli
      February 16, 2013 - 15:19

      Remind me again who the Minister of Ineptitude was who arranged this "Smart Deal".

    • Happily Retired
      February 17, 2013 - 09:30

      It was purchased in 1999. Brian Tobin was premier. I'm not sure where the Telegram was then.

    • Juku
      December 17, 2013 - 15:56

      We bought the junk. Can't see how it's Estonia's fault.

  • Kent
    February 16, 2013 - 08:52

    They sould have attached it to the Orlova.

  • Not impressed
    February 16, 2013 - 08:43

    St Brendan's should not be the community to suffer to accomodate the people of Bell Island.....they should be the ones to get the Sound of Islay and let the deal with the uncertanty of whether or not the ferry will run or break down. St Brendan's is losing the fishing boat visit to the fish plant this summer and will have to rely on trucks to come in and remove crab and other catches..what happens if the Sound of Delay is not running....what happens then.......the MV grace sparkes was placed on the St Brendan's run originally and that is where she should remain.....obviously the government didnt think the Bell island run needed the ferry back then and therefore they should not get her now....leave the ferry where she is.........also what happens to the employees on the mv grace sparkes...rumor is that they are all going to be laid off....seems llike the only people that are going to suffer from this shuffle is the people of St Brendan's......and why should they??????? I say fight llike there is no tomorrow....don't give in the people of Bell Island or the government!

  • Not impressed
    February 16, 2013 - 08:42

    St Brendan's should not be the community to suffer to accomodate the people of Bell Island.....they should be the ones to get the Sound of Islay and let the deal with the uncertanty of whether or not the ferry will run or break down. St Brendan's is losing the fishing boat visit to the fish plant this summer and will have to rely on trucks to come in and remove crab and other catches..what happens if the Sound of Delay is not running....what happens then.......the MV grace sparkes was placed on the St Brendan's run originally and that is where she should remain.....obviously the government didnt think the Bell island run needed the ferry back then and therefore they should not get her now....leave the ferry where she is.........also what happens to the employees on the mv grace sparkes...rumor is that they are all going to be laid off....seems llike the only people that are going to suffer from this shuffle is the people of St Brendan's......and why should they??????? I say fight llike there is no tomorrow....don't give in the people of Bell Island or the government!

  • jeremiah
    February 16, 2013 - 08:23

    Surely someone should be accountable for the burchase of this bucket? Who negotiated the purchase? Who did the pre purchase inspection? Bribes? Kickbacks? The public has the right to know, it is our money.