— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
The Department of Transportation and Works has announced that it’s redeploying several vessels within the provincial ferry fleet to ensure necessary refit work moves forward as planned and to minimize disruptions to the travelling public.
The department is also decommissioning the Nonia from the ferry service.
“Our key goal is to ensure that the provincial ferry service has sufficient capacity both throughout the year and during the peak summer period to meet the needs of the travelling public,” said Transportation and Works Minister Paul Davis. “This is an interconnected provincial ferry service. Vessels have to be deployed to best meet mandatory refit requirements, and the needs of affected communities.”
Following refit, the Hazel McIsaac is returning to the Green Bay run with the Sound of Islay moving to the St. Brendan’s ferry service.
The Grace Sparkes is moving from the St. Brendan’s run to be deployed to Bell Island as the replacement for the Beaumont Hamel, which is entering refit Feb. 18 for about 10 weeks.
The Beaumont Hamel will provide service to Fogo Island upon completing required refit work. This will enable the Capt. Earl W Winsor to enter refit, where it’s expected to remain in refit until late June. Upon the return of the Capt. Earl W Winsor, the Beaumont Hamel will go back to Bell Island and the Grace Sparkes to St. Brendan’s.
The Nonia is currently in dry dock and was not expected to return to service until January 2014. Given this time frame and the estimated cost of $9 million to complete repairs, the department said a decision was made to remove it from the provincial fleet, have it decommissioned and sold. The vessel was acquired in 1999 at a cost of $1.2 million. Including purchasing costs, about $19 million has been spent to date to keep it in service.
“The time has come to focus our ferry resources and make more sound investments in new purpose-built vessels rather than spending large amounts of funds annually to keep the Nonia,” said Davis. “We are moving forward with a request for proposals for the construction of new vessels as part of the ferry replacement plan while seeking available vessels that meet the province’s needs.”
The provincial government spent about $82 million in 2012 to operate the provincial ferry service. About $5 million is generated in revenue through ferry users. More than 90 cents of every dollar to provide ferry service throughout the province is publicly funded.