Phone lines busy, stress high for Marine Atlantic
The loss of one of the ferries that services the Port aux Basques-North Sydney route has most of Marine Atlantic's phone lines tied up, and the company says it understands the stress its customers are feeling.
The MV Blue Puttees has been knocked out of service until at least the end of August after it hit a wharf on its way out of Port aux Basques this week.
Marine Atlantic made the decision Thursday to pull the Atlantic Vision off the Argentia run to compensate for the loss of the Blue Puttees, which has left many customers in the lurch.
Darrell Mercer, spokesperson for Marine Atlantic, said the company is feeling just as stressed over the situation as many of its customers.
"It is a very frustrating time, and we recognize the inconvenience that's being experienced by our customers," Mercer said.
"We know that with the high call-volumes we're receiving, we're struggling with our lines. We have staff that are working all of the phones, but of course we have approximately 5,000 passengers that are going to be impacted from Argentia over the next two weeks, so we're trying to contact those customers and at the same time we have people calling in. We're trying our best to get in touch with people and alleviate their concerns."
Mercer said bringing the Atlantic Vision over to the shorter run will allow a faster flow of traffic and accommodate more passengers — commercial and private alike — but that it is not an ideal situation.
"It was a very difficult choice. We looked at a number of factors [such as] the impact on those customers that had booked," he said.
"We also recognized that there'd be a business impact in the Argentia-Placentia area, so it was a very difficult decision, but ultimately we needed the vessel to go on to the Port aux Basques-North Sydney crossing simply to handle the capacity."
No easy solution
Denis Mahoney, with the St. John's Board of Trade, said the board is happy with the overall handling of the situation.
"It's an unanticipated event, and when these accidents do happen you have to put a mitigation plan in place and business is typically used to having to make adjustments when unforeseen events take place," Mahoney said. "And that's what Marine Atlantic has done."
Mahoney said while there will be an impact on local business in the Argentia area, there are only so many solutions.
"We are pleased with the response from Marine Atlantic. We respect the fact that there is going to be some delays, there will be some frustration, but we would just ask for people's patience as we try in the business community to make some adjustments," he said.
The Blue Puttees was cleared to sail out of Port aux Basques on Thursday night, and will be in drydock in Halifax to undergo repairs to the bulbous bow that was damaged on impact.
The Transportation Safety Board has not yet completed its investigation of the incident.