Lionel Rudd was many of the customers affected in the July’s incident involving the MV Blue Puttees running aground in the Port aux Basques harbour.
Rudd and his wife knew through news reports that there was damage done to the Blue Puttees before they left Sudbury on Aug. 3, but having made contact with Marine Atlantic, they were assured their ferry booking was on schedule.
The MV Blue Puttees ran aground in Port aux Basques in July. — TC Media file photo
“Our visit to the island was truly spectacular,” said Rudd. “Great scenery, great weather and the people we met were really terrific.”
However, what Rudd described as the only cloud on their trip was the service from Marine Atlantic.
He discovered only by chance the company had left a message on their answering machine, informing them their scheduled trip from Argentia had been re-routed to Port aux Basques and they would not have the cabin they had booked originally.
Rudd was able to make contact with the company and reschedule for the next day, having a medical reason to need a cabin.
“With the change in scheduling it meant a 500-mile extra journey back to Port aux Basques,” said Rudd. “Along with the added expense of an overnight stay.”
Rudd said the trip was both tiring and demanding, and he feels that under the circumstance he should be entitled to more compensation than the $400 vouchers offered, which can only be redeemed on Marine Atlantic.
As far as Rudd is concerned, Marine Atlantic should have some sort of backup plan for when incidents occur.
“The service provided by the employees both on the boat and the dock was really good,” said Rudd. “However, travellers who get stranded either in North Sydney or Port aux Basques are really in big trouble.”
He felt that there are too few hotels, and the ones that are there are quite costly.
“Marine Atlantic could, and perhaps should, create a delay hostel, where travellers could park and rest, take their children and have inexpensive food or snacks available,” said Rudd. “Instead, passengers have to wait in lines in their vehicles.”
He also suggested Marine Atlantic could look at the possibility of having a standby ferry, and notes the cost could be offset by having fewer delays.
“Although it might prove costly, just think of the millions of dollars lost when a ferry is out of action, especially in the height of the travelling season,” said Rudd.
Rudd is adamant the blame cannot be passed on when it comes to issues with the ferries and the company.
Since his trip to Newfoundland, Rudd has tried to make contact with many of the managers in the company and has written several letters.
He has questioned the compensation and is now questioning why he isn’t receiving the response he is looking for from the company.
Darrell Mercer, spokesman for Marine Atlantic, verified the company did receive Rudd’s letters and had prepared a response by writing on Oct. 22.
Mercer said the use of travel vouchers by the company is part of the industry’s standard practice throughout the transportation sector.
“Any passengers who were impacted by the rescheduling of the Argentia service through Port aux Basques received a refund for the difference in fare as well as travel vouchers of $200 per adult and $100 per child,” said Mercer.
Mercer said that no compensation scenario can be designed to meet the individual needs of every customer, however, Marine Atlantic has developed a fair and consistent policy that is widely used throughout the transportation sector.
In both 2012 and 2013, approximately 6,000 travel vouchers were issued to customers, he said.
Mercer said that more than $500,000 in travel vouchers have been redeemed over the past 12 months related to vouchers issued in
2012, but that it is too early to determine the level used from the Blue Puttees incident as customers have up to 12 months to redeem them.
“Correspondence received with Marine Atlantic is responded to in as efficient a manner as possible,” said Mercer in regards to Rudd’s questioning of why he hasn’t received a response.
He said in the case of the Blue Puttees incident, fewer than one per cent of the affected customers wrote letters of complaint.
“While there was frustration expressed with the inconvenience that was caused, the majority of customers understood the unfortunate circumstance and the capacity constraints that faced Marine Atlantic during one of our busiest times of the year,” said Mercer.
He also noted a number of customers wrote letters commending the efforts of the staff who worked long hours to provide a positive travel experience.
Rudd said he doesn’t suspect this incident will keep him from visiting the province again, but he will be looking at other means of transportation.
“It’s high time that the people who run Marine Atlantic are held to account,” said Rudd.
“For the most part, it is the good people of Newfoundland who bear the brunt of an extremely poorly operated, but vital commercial link with mainland Canada.”
The Gulf News