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LETTER: Does Marine Atlantic dislike sleepers?

A Marine Atlantic ferry dockside at the harbour in Channel-Port aux Basques.
A Marine Atlantic ferry dockside at the harbour in Channel-Port aux Basques. - Marine Atlantic photo

I am not sure I fully understand Marine Atlantic's deliberate attempts to have their driving passengers maintain a state of sleep deprivation on their night crossings. It is my belief there could be consequences for them as a result.

In late May 2019, I travelled across the Gulf after a full day of driving across N.B. and N.S. When booking my crossing in both directions I was told all the few rentable, over-priced rooms were booked weeks ago. So (again) there was no reasonable place to sleep.

My choices for getting required sleep were to sit up in one of the two free sitting areas, while TVs blasted, or in a large empty lounge area as music and TVs blared.

The Level 8 sleeping chair room was marked “closed” (??). One person (ex-staff) suggested it was because there were insufficient staff yet hired for the busy summer season. So it was closed because this room had no one to clean or monitor it? That made me wonder if all the rentable rooms were actually full or not yet opened due to lack of staff?

There were ample places in the lounge to rest but I noted that the TVs in the lounge were obviously adjusted so that even the seated could not sleep — even when closed. Why?

“No sleeping” signs are seen everywhere on the vessel near any cushioned surfaces. The signs indicate sleeping is “illegal” (my words), in those spots. As a former police officer I am not sure what the charge would be or the punishment? I would have asked to be detained if that detention room had a bed.

I would have asked to be detained if that detention room had a bed.

In support of one Marine Atlantic employee, I watched as a blind passenger pleaded for permission to sleep on the floor in the canteen/ TV lounge. She assisted him in finding a spot between seats. God bless her!

I felt for the seniors who were obviously uncomfortably sprawled in the seats that recline a mere two inches.

There isn’t a human being that works on the Marine Atlantic vessels that isn’t aware of the need for drivers to get enough REM sleep. Then why is there such an effort to disallow sleep when there are so many circumstances? Management directives?

I know the answer.

The MV Blue Puttees.
The MV Blue Puttees.

Are they also suggesting the floors aren’t clean or sanitary? I watched numerous staff mopping the smooth floors and vacuuming rugs at 2:20 a.m. They were doing a great job.

There is the argument that when the boat is blocked, if everyone laid down in certain areas, enough seating would be an issue.

I get that, but I note that the boat was almost arguably empty this date. And is so for nine months of the year.

I strongly suggest that there are moral, civil and, in some cases, potentially criminal consequences when you deliberately deny passengers meaningful rest that could likely lead to injuries or worse on the TCH. Especially when there is a choice.

One cannot feed a person full of liquor on the vessels then let them drive.

What about deliberately denying them sleep when there is a reasonable opportunity to do so?

Marine Atlantic has a responsibility to ensure your driving passengers have reasonable access to recharge before driving. That luxury should not just be for the lucky who have rooms.

I suggest those denied a reasonable ability to get a nap, when and where possible, may have a court case if that leads to a subsequent driving collision.

I was forced to drive the following morning with about two hours sleep that I managed in the Marine Atlantic Terminal parking lot.

I wrote this letter in the closed lounge as music blasted and TVs roared.

By myself.

Oddly on the trip to N.S. two weeks earlier staff left passengers alone to sleep where they could.

Different ships, different attitudes.

Boyd Merrill,
C.B.S.


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