Seven round-trip runs are being removed from the Bell Island weekly ferry schedule.
The changes, announced Friday evening, are to ensure crews get enough rest between runs, said Transportation and Works Minister Tom Hedderson.
“It’s all about safety and making sure that our crew is not fatigued and working up to their full potential, and as well trying to make sure that we’re looking after the needs of the travelling public,” said Hedderson.
As the Telegram reported Friday (www.thetelegram.com/News/Local/2011-01-28/article-2179133/Captains-suspended-from-ferry-service/1), two ferry captains have been suspended following separate incidents in which the MV Nonia struck rocks and a wharf, but Hedderson said the changes weren’t made as a result of the incidents.
“It goes back to last Friday when there was some concern expressed with regard to whether or not the crew of the Beaumont had their prescribed hours of rest,” he said.
Prior to the changes, the ferries made 135 round-trips per week. The interim schedule, available at www.tw.gov.nl.ca/ferryservices/index.html, has seven fewer runs, effective Monday.
Hedderson said the department will listen to users’s response to the schedule changes.
“If it runs a week or so and it looks like it’s the best that we can do, it will turn from an interim to permanent,” he said.
But Gary Gosine, the mayor of Wabana and a member of the ferry users committee, slammed the changes to the schedule, which he said was fine the way it was.
“I think they overreacted,” he said, adding that the committee has been consulting all week with the government on changes to the schedule, which he said was originally going to cut 17 round-trips per week. “So that just shows me how incompetent their staff who came up with this is. They had to rely on our committee to try to come up with something better.”
Gosine said Transport Canada had already ruled that ferry crews were getting enough rest between runs, and added that the system’s biggest problem is poor communication. “You gotta call in … to see if the boat is running to get you to work, and now you gotta call in from work to see if you’re getting home.”