Marine Atlantic rate hikes will affect more than users

Gary Kean
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The Blue Puttees in Port aux Basques harbour. — Gulf News file photo

Peter Antle figures the four per cent rate hikes announced by Marine Atlantic will have a bigger affect on the average Newfoundlander than it will on the flow of tourism traffic.

The manager of the Greenwood Inn and Suites said the increase in rates for both commercial and passenger traffic, set to take effect April 1, is basically on par with doing business these days.

“We’re all in that same game of having that balance of what are our business costs and the overall affordability for making it work,” said Antle. “We have to manage that every year.”

Marine Atlantic is no different, said Antle, as long as its customers are seeing more value for the increased cost of using the services.

Antle noted that Marine Atlantic has been investing in improvements to its terminals in both Port aux Basques and North Sydney and has introduced new vessels to its fleet.

“We have also seen improved overall communication with us as industry operators and with customers in terms of booking in advance,” said Antle.

“They are still in the processs of doing those things right now.”

He doesn’t think a four per cent increase will cost the province tourists.

“Is it a concern? It’s always a concern when there are increases,” Antle said. “But, at the end of the day, if these costs are going towards better, reliable service and better customer service, I think people will see value in it. ... I’d be more concerned for the off-island cost of goods, as opposed to the tourism impact.”

Gord Peddle owns Atlantica Diversified Transportation Systems. Based out of Mount Pearl, it also has trucking operations staged from Clarenville, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

The 225 tractor trailers in his fleet make between 3,500 and 4,000 crossings on the Gulf ferry every year.

The latest price hike does not sit well with Peddle because he knows the trucking industry will pay it, then pass it on to customers, who will ultimately pass it on to the consumers of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Notwithstanding the investments the federal government is making into our service by improving the facilities and the supply of a couple of vessels, the burden of the operating cost increases seems to be put back on the Newfoundland consumer more and more,” said Peddle.

“If that’s the way it’s supposed to be, then I guess they are accomplishing that.”

He said the increase cannot be absorbed by the trucking industry or its customers and should not be more than the rate of inflation.

“I could accept them coming up with a two per cent increase, or whatever the (consumer price index) is, but four per cent is outlandish,” said Peddle.

“Before I see a four per cent increase, I would like to see some accountability to their cost-cutting measures.”

Marine Atlantic said the hikes were necessary because the Crown corporation continues “to be impacted by rising costs of materials, supplies and labour.”

The Western Star

Organizations: Marine Atlantic, Greenwood Inn

Geographic location: Port aux Basques, North Sydney, Newfoundland and Labrador Mount Pearl Clarenville Nova Scotia Western Star

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Recent comments

  • AL
    February 17, 2013 - 13:10

    like everything overpriced, blame the unions. People can't cross a little walkway from Marine Atlantic to downtown North Sydney with being escorted. Cars and trucks could be hauling anything from weapons to illegal aliens, are they checked or is it just the walkers. None of the traffic or passengers going on the boat is checked to my knowledge.

  • townie
    February 14, 2013 - 19:10

    cry all you want my good people, stevie don't give a rats *ss

  • CFA
    February 14, 2013 - 14:16

    If the trucking industry feels Marine Atlantic is too expensive, let them arrange their own shipping. Despite being on an island, St. John's has lower prices for many food items than any of the cities I've lived in on the mainland.

    • Brett
      February 15, 2013 - 19:49

      Other than chicken - I have not found the food at comparable prices to the mainland. Eggs/Milk/All fruit/beef/pork/lamb are all more expensive. Cheese etc are more expensive. The cookies and boxed junk are probably the same - but broccoli/swiss chard/asparagus/any type of lettuce - all more expensive. Enjoy your KD.

  • Barrelman in Cape Breton
    February 14, 2013 - 12:14

    Don Barnes, vice-president of customer experience for Marine Atlantic, is quoted as saying, "One of the big drivers of costs for organizations for us is the ship sails." What an incredulous statement! The sole reasons for the "ship sails" and the existence of Marine Atlantic and the Cabot strait ferry service are the geographical fact that Newfoundland is an island seperated from the rest of Canada and the North American continent by a considerable distance of Atlantic Ocean, plus the terms of confederation that mandates operation of ferry service by the government of Canada for passengers and freight between Port aux Basques, Newfounland, and North Sydney, NS. Fast forward from 1949 to 2013 and look at the changes in the ferry service now. The fleet has gone from smaller, Canadian-built ships that operated under all but the most severe weather conditions to a couple of huge, foreign-built ships. Except for the fact Canadian shipyards didn't get the work, bigger would seem better in principle. But in practice, those big ships spend more time tied up because the newer ferries, while certainly seaworthy, are simply too big to enter, maneuver and dock at Port aux Basques when winds in the harbour are in excess of 30 knots. (Imagine trying to carry a 4 by 8 sheet of drywall or plywood across a parking lot on a windy day and you'll get the picture). There have been a lot iof cancelled crossings lately because of wind conditions, meaning delays in the primary means of getting people and goods to Newfoundland. Meanwhile, a cancelled crossing means less fuel is burned when a ship is tied at dockside. However, when the ship IS able to resume service, it's usually loaded to capacity to clear up traffic that backed up while it remained at the wharf. Sailing full, the ship is operating more efficiently and earning more revenue for Marine Atlantic per passenger/tonne of freight. So while sitting in an automobile or in a transport truck for a day or two (or more) on the terminal parking lot is a major inconvenience for ferry customers when crossing are cancelled, it's not so bad for Marine Atlantic. If you read the corporation's annual financial statements, one issue that appears to take priority now is less quality of servic and more generation of user revenue to reduce the amount of subsidy required (under terms of confederation) from the federal government. And the subsidy amount is declining every year, meaning ferry rates are increased every year. The latest to take effect on April 1st is greater than the cost of living and becoming prohibitive for people and business who rely on the ferry service to Newfoundland, let alone tourists in summer... and if it's too expensive for them to travel to Newfoundland, you can bet they probably won't bother to drive to North Sydney or Cape Breton Island either, where people should also be concerned. It's time Marine Atlantic startedconsulting with and listening to users again, like it did in the 1970's before building (in Canada) the at-the-time largest and most powerful ice-breaking ferries in the world -- The M.V. Caribou and M.V. Joseph and Clara Smallwood. Marine Atlantic should have learned something from decades of operating those noble hard-working sister ships that served them and their users so well before dooming them to such ignoble fateson the beaches of India. Or perhaps it's time the government of Newfoundland and Labrador began talks with Ottawa about taking over the ferry service. After all, the service is first and foremost an essential service for Newfoundland. Why else would it have factored into the terms of confederation? It makes little sense that the service shoudl remain in the hands of bean-counters and politicos in distant, dispassionate, landlocked Ottawa. Oh, yes. And locate its corporate headquarters and base of operations at Port aux Basques. There will always be a ferry terminal and jobs at North Sydney, but that's all Marine Atlantic is to that community: jobs. I once met a long-time employee at the North Sydney ferry terminal who'd recently retired. I asked him if he'd ever taken a trip on the ferry to Newfoundland, even to see the Port aux Basques terminal. I was astonished at his reply, which was, "Once it (the ferry) goes over the horizon I don't care what it does 'long as it comes back."

  • Brian
    February 14, 2013 - 12:07

    They should have a two-tiered fare system - one for permanent Newfoundland residents and one for tourists. Or a discount system for people who can prove residency in the province.

    • ROY
      February 14, 2013 - 16:14

      Yea!!! take it out on the tourist!!!!! I did it once too exp...I won't be returning Roy in California

  • david
    February 14, 2013 - 11:15

    Marine Atalntic is completely incompetent, a caricature of a crown corporation. After decades of incompetence, it was clear that a gang of political bagmen couldn't acutally run a ferry system. So, in classic political tradition, instead of hiring a different, competent group, MA decided to get into the more glamourous, tourist mini-cruise business instead. Well no one asked anyone in Newfoundland if that was an appropriate plan (why start finding out what your customer actually needs?!). And obviously no one bothered with any financial analysis of the idea (.....why bother when it's "no one's money?) If they had, they would have quickly found that chasing the business of a 9-week "tourist season", with an operational sub-optimization of the remaining 43 weeks per year, is complete and utter folly. And here we are.....rates up, service worse than ever, and every dollar that they could ever have possibly gotten for the next 25 years already spent on garbage scows. UNder the thumb of Marine Atlantic, we will forever be the most isolated of islands in the world.

  • Foghorn Leghorn
    February 14, 2013 - 09:01

    On the positive side, the Provincial Government will soon be able to save some money, they will only need to run their slick ads within the province. Nobody else will be able to afford to come here, and we won't be able to afford to leave.

  • John Gardner
    February 14, 2013 - 08:10

    As far as I am concerned Marine Alantic has no good service. It is over priced and inefficient. I was a user of the ferry service for over 30 years and have found that the Ferries may look better but the performance of these vessels are less reliable. I have never had a problem with an staff. But I am appalled that they get paid to sit on the dock when a vessel is stuck of shore for weather related reasons. That is not good business practice. Considering that the majority of employees could travel from home to work in less than 5 min if they skipped Tim Hortons. I find it hard to believe that a ferry could not be built with a better propulsion system to dock in windy weather or even the use of tug boats. Maybe it isn't the ferries themselves but the docks. That is for the experts. Just my two cents worth. I now prefer to fly if I have too return. But that isn't as often as it use to be because I dislike flying.