Custom-built vessels to be added to provincial ferry fleet

Louis Power
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Transportation and Works minister Paul Davis speaks at news conference on plans for the province's ferry system.

New custom-built ferries will be added to the existing fleet in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Department of Transportation and Works announced this morning. 

The new ferries will  enhance service in the Strait of Bell Isle, Fogo Island and Change Islands, and a "swing vessel" will be used for all ferry-dependent communities when regular vessels are being serviced. 

The government will issue a request for proposals for construction of a swing vessel and a new vessel for Fogo Island and Change Islands. According to a news release from the Department of Transportation and Works, despite months of negotiations with Peter Kiewit International about possibly construction the swing vessel in Marystown, no agreement was reached. 

Following is some background information courtesy of the Department of Transportation and Works:

The Request for Proposals to Construct a 42 Metre Vessel and a Replacement for theMV Captain Earl W. Winsor:

The Provincial Government initiated vessel replacement by establishing a list of ferries to be constructed:

Three 42 meter vesselsA large vessel to replace the MV Captain Earl W. Winsor that services Fogo Islandand Change IslandsSix small scale ferries – five to serve communities on the south coast of the island, and one to serve the Charlottetown – Norman Bay – William’s Harbor – Port Hope Simpson run in Labrador. 

The Provincial Government began work on vessel replacement by awarding a contract in 2008 to the Peter Kiewit Sons Co. (now Peter Kiewit International) facility in Marystown.  The contract engaged the company to construct two 42 metre ferries, with each ferry having the capacity to accommodate 16 cars and 80 passengers. The Request for Expressions of Interest process used by government to award the contract revealed that the Kiewit facility in Marystown was the only facility in the province capable of constructing ships of this scale.

In March of 2011, construction of these two vessels was completed at a total cost of $27.5 million each, and the vessels were christened the MV Grace Sparkes and the MV Hazel McIssac in honour of two strong and influential women in Newfoundland and Labradorprovincial politics. The MV Grace Sparkes was put into service for the communities of St. Brendan’s and Burnside. The MV Hazel McIssac was put into service for Long Island and Little Bay Islands. 

After these vessels were completed, the Provincial Government intended to have Peter Kiewit International construct a third 42 metre vessel at its Marystown facility that would be similar to the first two. However, after the MV Grace Sparkes and MV Hazel McIssacwent into service, the company approached the Provincial Government for additional compensation for these vessels. Negotiations about additional compensation would remain unresolved, however in May of 2012, the company agreed to discuss terms for the construction of a third vessel and seek out additional compensation in another set of negotiations. 

Discussions with the company about the construction of a third 42 metre vessel did not produce acceptable terms, and the negotiation process continues to delay vessel replacement. 

In order to advance vessel replacement efforts while also maintaining the possibility of building ferries within the province, the Provincial Government will issue an RFP for the construction of a 42 metre swing vessel and the replacement of the Fogo Island / ChangeIslands ferry. The RFP will be issued in the coming weeks, and proposals will be accepted for a period of 90 days. Peter Kiewit International can still submit proposals to this RFP, and the Provincial Government encourages the company to do so.

The Request for Proposals for Combination Passenger/Freight/Vehicle Ferry Services for the Straits and for Coastal Labrador:

At present, ferry services for the Strait of Belle Isle and for coastal Labrador communities are provided by a combination of two privately owned vessels and two vessels owned by the Provincial Government, which are operated by two contractors:

The ferry service across the Strait of Belle Isle is currently contracted to Labrador Marine Inc., which provides the service with the MV Apollo, a vessel it owns and operates. The MV Apollo is capable of taking passengers and vehicles, but the only freight it accepts comes aboard in transport trucks. The MV Apollo will be under contract until January 2013. The Department of Transportation and Works intends to continue this service by issuing a tender for a ferry contract that will last until 2016. This vessel is supported by the MV Sir Robert Bond in the winter – a vessel owned by the Provincial Government, but operated through a contract with CAI Nunatsiavut Marine.Passenger service for communities on the coast of Labrador is provided by the MV Northern Ranger, which is owned by the Provincial Government and operated by CAI Nunatsiavut Marine. The vessel has limited freight capacity, and no capacity to take vehicles.Freight service for communities on the coast of Labrador is contracted to Labrador Marine Inc., which provides the service with the MV Astron, a vessel it owns and operates. The MV Astron is strictly a freight vessel - it does not take passengers.

The Provincial Government is seeking a single contract for all Labrador ferry services, and will require contractors to provide services with new, custom built, ice-class vessels that can take passengers, vehicles, and freight. 

The Department of Transportation and Works will issue a Request for Proposals to secure such an arrangement, and is arranging the contracts for existing services to conclude by 2016. This will give the timeframe necessary to allow contractors to build new vessels to serve Labrador. 

The RFP will be issued in the coming weeks, and proposals will be accepted for a period of 90 days.

Organizations: Department of Transportation and Works, Request for Proposals, Peter Kiewit International Peter Kiewit Sons Co. Labrador Marine Ferry Services

Geographic location: Marystown, Newfoundland and Labrador, Fogo Island Change Islands Port Hope Simpson Little Bay

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Recent comments

  • Glenn
    December 17, 2012 - 12:04

    "Fire trucks all done yet" so poignantly sums up this electronically controllled backboneless bunch, who never saw a novelty check they didn't like to get a picture with...........I'd say that pretty soon they will take credit for water, but 1/3 the province can't drink their water, so maybe we should thank the Dunderexspress for "air"

  • Eli
    December 17, 2012 - 12:03

    The minister said nothing. He was always good at that anyway. Now we compensate him $150,000.00 a year for his wisdom and expertise.

  • W McLean
    December 17, 2012 - 11:07

    Nothing spells ''restraint'' like another $350-$400-million worth of spending.

  • newfie
    December 17, 2012 - 11:00

    Lets just hope that our government dont make the same mistake again and get these ships built in Marystown. The price difference alone is huge if they got them built elsewhere in the world. marystown is not the ship building yard that it was back in the 80's and 90's, they are all retired and gone. it took them 3 years to build a 16 car ferry a couple years ago, hahaha it would take them 10 years to build a 60 car ferry for fogo. thats my opinion folks. merry christmas

    • John
      December 17, 2012 - 22:19

      Did you know all yards in different parts of the world are heavily subsidized. To buy a ferry from such a place provides no benefits to your province other than a one time savings. No money back into NL, no spin offs, no secondary industry nothing. It would be better not to spend government money at all than to have these ferries built in Korea or Europe. Explain why it will be alright to sanction cost overruns for any other project, but when it comes to the ahipyard or tje fishery it is just business.

    • a business man
      December 18, 2012 - 10:05

      JOHN - I am not interested in providing a benefit to my province. I am far more interested in one time savings. I am a taxpayer, and I demand efficient spending. This is not a make work project, it is a business transaction. I can't wait for the day with the rural communities, the shipyards and the fishery completely dies off. They have been bleeding the rest of us for too long and it has to stop. I am proud to say that when it comes to my businesses, I spend as little as possible, and higher as few newfoundlanders as possible. By doing so, I make more money.

  • david
    December 17, 2012 - 10:56

    No coherent plan, no strategy, no prioritization...just a bunch of politically expedient, election-bridging announcements to keep the hopper full. Fire trucks all done yet?

  • wha
    December 17, 2012 - 10:56

    where are all the commentors that state nothing ever gets done for people west of the overpass?