Labrador MHA worries about ferry readiness
The MHA for Cartwright-L'anse au Clair says she is concerned about whether the regular ferry service from Newfoundland to the south coast of Labrador will be able to start on time on April 1.
The contract for the Apollo, the ferry has carried cars and freight across the Strait of Belle Isle for years is up, and the province has been looking at other companies and other ships.
However, Liberal MHA Yvonne Jones said the lowest bidder, CAI, should not be considered.
"I have tremendous concerns with the fact that government is now considering a contract to a company that has made a complete mockery of marine services in Labrador to date," said Jones. "And a company that does not have a very good track record at all of providing services to people."
Problems with vessels
There have been problems with vessels used to service Labrador, through CAI Nunatsiavut Marine, the joint venture that CAI owns with the Nunatsiavut Group of Companies. (Nunatsiavut, though, is not involved in the bid for the Strait of Belle Isle service.)
In the summer of 2012, its ferry Northern Ranger broke down and had to be taken out of service months before the end of the shipping season.
Before that, the ferry Dutch Runner was found not to be suited to Labrador ports, was slow to deliver freight, and stopped its service early.
Jones said the province needs to put a reliable ferry service in place on the Strait of Belle Isle.
"This is a vital link for the people in Labrador and especially for people on the island who do business in Labrador," said Jones. "And it's essential that we get that crossing in operation as soon as we possibly can."
The ferry Sir Robert Bond now makes two trips per week to Corner Book. The Apollo used to make two or three trips per day during its regular service.
Start date getting close
Jones said CAI would like to use a ship that's currently in the Mediterranean, and inspectors from the province have been examining that ship.
However, sources said once the contract is awarded, it will still take at a month to get that ship into service, well beyond the April 1 start date.
On Wednesday in the house of assembly, Transportation Minister Paul Davis would not say when that tender will be awarded.
"We have to follow the law, we have to follow the rules," said Davis. "And we have to do due diligence to this process."