Strong winds would have kept the MV Norcon Galatea from operating Thursday, even had it not required repairs to the forward ramp.
According to Bob Kennedy, general manager of Norcon Marine Service’s parent company, Burry Group, the problem with the ramp was identified Wednesday, one day after it began handling trips between Bell Island and Portugal Cove.
The provincial government is leasing the vessel while provincial ferries undergo refits.
Kennedy said when heavier vehicles were departing from the ship, the ramp would lift a little after the vehicle’s back tires left the ramp. This was found to put stress on a pulley connected to the ramp.
Kennedy said that issue has been addressed and personnel were due to arrive later Thursday to attach a support piece to the ramp. That welding work was expected to take a few hours.
“There’s two pieces,” explained Kennedy. “The first part is sort of a metal drawbridge, and right at the top is a hinge part that hinges a little bit, because you have different elevations, depending on the tide, the land and that sort of thing. They’re putting a little piece on that so from now on that won’t bump after a heavy vehicle goes onto the land.”
The ramp was rebuilt prior to the boat being leased by the government as part of an investment exceeding $1 million on the owner’s part. Engines, gearboxes, anchor and chains, fire alarm and emergency evacuation systems, and navigation and safety equipment were either rebuilt, purchased new or upgraded by the company.
Strong winds prevented the MV Sound of Islay, a swing vessel currently serving Bell Island, from operating Thursday.
The Department of Transportation and Works advised the public in the morning that most provincial ferries were not operating due to weather conditions. Marine Atlantic ferry service was likewise affected Thursday.
The Norcon Galatea was known as the MV Hamilton Sound when the provincial government owned the ferry, which is now more than 40 years old.
The province sold it in 2011 for $214,000 to R.J.G. Construction, but announced earlier this month its plan to lease the vessel on a short-term basis.
Questions have since been raised in the House of Assembly about whether it would have been more fiscally responsible for government to have invested money in the vessel two years ago instead of selling it at a low price.
Comments made Monday by Liberal Leader Dwight Ball indicated the ferry is being leased at a rate of $5,787 per day.
The MV Flanders, which typically serves Bell Island, is undergoing repairs that were initially expected to take three days. Its usual partner, the MV Beaumont Hamel, is presently serving Fogo Island and Change Islands. When the Flanders returns to service, the Sound of Islay is expected to take over the Fogo run.