Ferry woes for Bell Island commuters

With the Flanders sitting in dry dock, the Beaumont Hamel is the only ferry servicing Bell Island.

There's another headache for people commuting back and forth from Bell Island.

The Flanders is sitting in dry dock for the second time in a week. The ship was pulled out of service Wednesday night because of a steering problem. That means the Beaumont Hamel is the only ferry servicing the island, making for fewer runs and longer waits.

Don Payne is a ferry user who's frustrated with the system.

"As far as I'm concerned, some of the people, especially the people of Bell Island, over the years there's constant frustration with the ferries," said Payne. "One ferry on, two ferries running, and it's never consistent and there seems to be always problems."

Transportation and Works Minister Paul Davis said there's no swing ship available to pick up the slack.

"One is covering another service, the other swing vessel, the Nonia is out of service right now as well," said Davis. "We're in a predicament where we don't have a second vessel to support the Beaumont, so we're looking at ways to try and maximize the crossings on a load-and-go basis that we can do for the Beaumont, so we can minimize as best we can the impact on the people who rely on this ferry service."

There's no word yet on when the Flanders will be fixed.

Meanwhile, it's been a rough ride for other ferry users in Newfoundland and Labrador. Two communities on the Burin Peninsula have barricaded the boats they've been forced to share with each other for most of the winter.

Government says more ships are on the way – but those are years away from their first passengers.