Province decides against replacing Northern Ranger
Ferry out of service indefinitely
The Newfoundland and Labrador government said there won't be a replacement ship for the Northern Ranger, a passenger ferry that is out of service because of mechanical problems.
"When we looked at the boat that was proposed, it wasn't adequate," Transportation Minister Tom Hedderson told CBC News on Thursday.
The decision will leave isolated communities on the north coast of Labrador without ferry service for at least a month.
The Northern Ranger will be towed to Quebec for major repairs to the ship's gearbox. A tugboat in Happy Valley-Goose Bay is ready to tow it to a shipyard, as soon as the weather improves.
Hedderson said planes will instead take people to the coast, departing on the same schedule as the Northern Ranger and carrying the same number of passengers.
"Our expectation for the contingency plan, as was outlined to the company, is that they have to basically look at the patterns over the last number of years," Hedderson said.
"They should provide enough flights to make sure that that traffic flow is maintained."
The good news for passengers is that it will cost them less than $30 per flight, a fraction of what it would normally cost. Flying is also a lot faster; 90 minutes to Nain instead of 40 hours.
But the Northern Ranger doesn't just carry people, it carries freight, too. And with the ferry out of commission, there's only one ship to deliver goods, machinery and winter supplies to northern Labrador communities.
Even with two ships, passengers say it's often a struggle to get everything to its destination.
CAI Nunatsiavut Marine, the company contracted to provide the service, will be trucking freight to Cartwright to try and move it up the coast quicker.
"It's certainly going to be a challenge," Hedderson said.
"But again, it's the best contingency (plan) that we can put into place."
Some people in Rigolet, for example, are upset because they want a new, more reliable boat. There's a community meeting set for Friday to discuss the issue.
Many people on the north coast also fear winter ice will move in before the ship is fixed.