The MV Caribou and MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood ferries will soon leave the port of North Sydney for perhaps the last time following news Marine Atlantic has sold the two vessels.
The ferries were sold to two separate companies who officially took ownership of the two ships last weekend. The Caribou’s new owner is based in St. Vincent and Grenadines, while the Smallwood’s owner is from the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific.
Tara Laing, a spokeswoman for Marine Atlantic, said terms of the sales would not be released, adding the Crown corporation has no knowledge of either company’s intended use for the vessels.
“Both of these vessels were the mainstay of our service for many years,” said Laing. “They were custom-built, and at the time were the largest icebreaking passenger ferries in North America.”
Marine Atlantic has revamped its fleet in recent years. 2009 marked the introduction of the MV Atlantic Vision, a 203-metre ship built in 2002 that can carry up to 531 vehicles. It mostly operates on the Argentia-to-North Sydney run.
This year witnessed the unveiling of two ships — the MV Blue Puttees and the MV Highlanders. Sharing the Port aux Basques-to-North Sydney run, the two ferries increased Marine Atlantic’s capacity for commercial and passenger traffic by 25 per cent.
“The capacity was definitely a main priority in the sense of needing to be able to transport our traffic,” said Laing. “We’ve continued to build from a commercial point of view. This year we transported 100,000 units for the first time ever in 12 months (April 2010 through March 2011), and it’s continuing to build even throughout the summer.”
According to figures made available by the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, total passenger movements reached 113,056 from January to June of this year, down three per cent compared to 2010.
Additionally, the newer vessels almost double the available cabin space for passengers, and Laing said those units have been selling well.
In 24 years of service, Marine Atlantic estimates the Caribou made over 16,000 trips, carrying approximately three million passengers and over two million vehicles. It was retired in November 2010.
The MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood started making trips for Marine Atlantic in 1990, making year-round journeys between Port aux Basques and North Sydney. Its last voyage on that route was made on March 10, 2011.
The sale leaves the MV Leif Ericson as the oldest vessel in Marine Atlantic’s fleet. The ship, built in 1991, underwent a significant refit this past winter, according to Laing. It only handles commercial traffic between Port aux Basques and North Sydney.
The sales were made through a London-based company specializing in the sale and purchase of ships, ICAP Shipping Ltd.
Laing said the two companies are in the process of placing crews on the vessels prior to departing. The Caribou and Smallwood ferries are both docked in North Sydney.
With files from The Cape Breton Post