Ferry work should include provincial tradespeople: opposition

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Labrador ferry service upgrade yet to see request for proposals

The Fogo Island-Change Islands run will get a new ferry in September 2015, under a contract with Damen Shipbuilding, announced this morning at Confederation Building in St. John’s.

Representatives for the Liberals and NDP were on hand to hear the news, later applauding the Progressive Conservative government for taking a step forward in replacing the province’s aging ferries.

Yet both Liberal MHA Tom Osborne and NDP MHA George Murphy quickly moved to question the fact the province’s next ferry will be built at a shipyard in either The Netherlands or Romania, rather than in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“It’s obviously good news the province is getting new ferries. We’ve been calling for action on the ferry replacement program for some time,” Osborne told reporters, immediately following the announcement.

“There is some disappointment none of the components are being built in the province.”

He said there may be an added cost to building the ferries in this province, but there is also additional benefit, in the form of employment opportunities and skills transfer between tradespeople. He asked the PC government to try to ensure some local work for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians on future shipbuilding contracts.

Click here for Related story, Province offers ferry vision

A ‘death knell’ for shipbuilding

Murphy used more damning words, as he characterized the new ferry deal as a lost opportunity for local shipbuilding.

“It’s probably the death knell of the Newfoundland and Labrador shipbuilding industry. That was the first reaction,” he said.

“It’s great that we’re getting boats. No question about it. It’s great that we’re getting new boats. The crews that are out there now are sailing in junk essentially ... so it’s good to see some progress happening here, but it’s still a long ways off,” he said.

The contract with Damen Shipbuilding, based in The Netherlands, for the province’s new 200-passenger ferry is valued at $51 million.

It was awarded to Damen after negotiations that followed an international request for proposals, wherein 15 detailed responses were received, according to provincial Transportation Minister Nick McGrath.

"There has been a lot of work that has gone into it,” he said this morning, of the work by government staff to seal a deal for the replacement for the MV Earl Winsor.

When asked about building the ship in Newfoundland and Labrador, or even in Canada, Damen Shipyards’ North American representative, Jan W van Hogerwou, said building here would have jacked up the price.

He said about five months of further engineering work will be completed and either a shipyard in Romania or Netherlands will be selected as the construction site for the new ferry.

Ultimately, the project was sent outside the province almost a year ago, after the provincial government became frustrated with negotiations around pricing and payment on new ferries with Kiewit in Marystown and launched an international search for shipbuilders.

McGrath confirmed Kiewit did not respond to that international request for proposals for the new Fogo ferry build.

Promises for Bell Island and Labrador

Meanwhile, $10 million in additional spending was announced this morning, for upgrades to the wharves at Bell Island and Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s. McGrath also said negotiations were underway with Damen for a second ferry, to be put onto the Bell Island run.

"I know this is going to be a historic day for people in my community,” said that area’s MHA David Brazil, who was at the table for the government announcement.

But that contract has yet to be detailed and signed.

“There’s still a question with regards to the timelines for when the rest of the ferry boats will be replaced,” Murphy said, wondering about other promised upgrades to the ferry service to Labrador, and along the Labrador coast.

Those upgrades, with a new boat for the coast, were promised to be completed for 2016, but a request for proposals has yet to be issued.

Sarah Leo, the president of the Nunatsiavut Government, representing communities of people along the Labrador coast, has already publicly questioned why the provincial government has not moved ahead with the Labrador ferry RFP —to include a roll-on, roll-off passenger vehicle ferry — announced by then-Minister of Transportation Paul Davis in December 2012.

Leo, in a Twitter posting this morning, said: “Just an RFP for ferries for Labrador would be exciting at this point, contract would be amazing!”

McGrath has said the request for proposals is coming and he is hoping to have it out shortly, but did not commit to any specific dates.

Organizations: Confederation Building, Damen Shipyards, North American

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Netherlands, Romania Bell Island Canada Marystown Portugal Cove

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Recent comments

  • Mike
    November 13, 2013 - 20:08

    Damen builds quality ships. While it is disappointing that the ferries won't be built in NL, I believe the Province is getting the best bang for its buck(s).

    • david
      November 14, 2013 - 13:55

      Mike: Damen is now building a ship for the Newfoundland government...a customer with a reputation of being the singlemost stupid, easily duped 'mark' of a customer on Earth......for ANY good or service procured. You think this will be a typical 'Damen' project? Really?!

  • Don Lester
    November 13, 2013 - 19:14

    Now you see what you would get if you elected an NDP or Liberal government. Combined, they have as much business sense as my little toe.

  • KD
    November 13, 2013 - 18:12

    Thats the proper way to run any business get the best bang for the taxpayers money I just wonder what osborne , murphy and co would do if elected to govern with the tax payers money

  • Ben
    November 13, 2013 - 16:57

    I've heard George Murphy ask so many times about the ferry strategy. Now he wants to wait 5 years and probably double the cost...this taxi driver doesn't have a clue. And Osborne...need I say more! He doesn't know where Fogo is let alone about the ferry for the island. Glad to see the government push forward with the building of these ferries. Unfortunate they can't be built in the province...but that's it!!

  • Dave
    November 13, 2013 - 14:55

    Good to see the government make the right decision for a change.

  • Mike C
    November 13, 2013 - 14:53

    Got to agree with Charles as I have to laugh at how the taxi driver has become an expert on everything since being elected. I hope he checked with Lorraine before speaking but then again tomorrow he may say he never meant what he said today!!!!

  • Corporate Psycho
    November 13, 2013 - 14:51

    Brazil can get a few of the by's to build one for beer. Transocean is taking one of their rigs out of here for a refit as well. Giveaways galore.

  • david
    November 13, 2013 - 14:44

    Get the most value for money spent...that's how everyone else tries to do it. Well, everywhere that bothers with even lip-service prattle of respect for taxpayer dollars anyway. Why must this place always let the tail wag the dog (usually a rabid mutt to begin with), and prioritize the false premise of work "skills transfer" as the big goal?!? Always a game-ending swing for the fence, and a long slow walk back to the dugout. What's wrong with simply showing us all --- just once! --- that we can acquire a good, safe, route-appropriate ferry for a dam ferry route?! Besides being inherently "useful", it also might restore a morsel of faith in this 'mutant democracy' and its economy gone shamefully, terribly wrong.

  • John
    November 13, 2013 - 13:51

    Most of the communities being serviced by the provincial ferry service have less than 599 residents. Time for relocation, take the ferry service away from the small locations unless they have an average of passengers similar to the top 3 or they pay to have the service cost.taxr

    • Brad
      November 13, 2013 - 14:37

      "Most of the communities in NL that are serviced by the Federal ferry service (Marine Atlantic) have less than 599. Time for relocation off NL. Take the ferry service away from Newfoundland unless they have more passengers or they pay to have the service cost. Sick and tired of Newfoundlanders whining about a ferry service paid for by my tax dollars." Fixed. Sincerely, A mainlander who compliments your impeccable logic.

  • Charles
    November 13, 2013 - 13:13

    Got to laugh at Murphy & Osborne, they haven't got a clue what they are talking about, concerning this project. That what I keep saying, the people we elects to represent us in government, don't understand the issues, is there a solution to problems like those and many more. the answer is yes.

  • david
    November 13, 2013 - 13:01

    And let the political BS start. Foret getting decent boats...let's build them over-budget and behind schedule using strike-addicted Newfoundland labour! Let's make the bathrooms LGBT-friendly, and hire only handicapped crew, and only serve Newfoundland seal meat sandwiches on board. What an effing joke this place is.