Halifax's newest ferry braves winter swells during sea trials

The Vincent Coleman is the fourth of five new ferries Halifax Transit is using to replace its aging fleet.

‘We’re extremely happy that we’re going to be able to provide a new ferry system’

The Vincent Coleman is seen here during sea trials before it was sent to Halifax. (YouTube)

Halifax Transit's newest ferry, the Vincent Coleman, is set to undergo a round of sea trials in Halifax harbour after being tested in ocean swells off the southern coast of Nova Scotia.

The Vincent Coleman is fourth of five new ferries the municipality is using to replace its aging ferry fleet.

The Vincent Coleman, the Viola Desmond, the Craig Blake and the Christopher Stannix were constructed at the A.F. Theriault & Son Ltd. boatyard in Meteghan, N.S. The fifth ferry, the Rita Joe, is expected to be ready by August

One set of sea trials for the Vincent Coleman were completed while at the boatyard, according to Capt. John McCann, the supervisor for marine safety and security for Halifax Transit's ferry division.

"There is a series of sea trials that are going to take place," he said. "One is at the shipyard itself where they have to go out and make sure the system's all ready so they can make the voyage safely around from Meteghan to Halifax, which they did and satisfied Transport Canada's requirements."

The propeller system on the ferry is a German-made Voith Schneider, and two German technicians were present during the first sea trials to fine-tune the machinery.

The ferry is named after Vincent Coleman, the train dispatcher who sacrificed his own life in the Halifax Explosion by staying behind to warn an inbound Saint John train of the impending disaster.

Halifax train dispatcher Vincent Coleman. (Nova Scotia Archives photo)

Now that the vessel is in Halifax, it will undergo another set of sea trials in Halifax harbour that should happen in the next week or so.

McCann said those trials will make sure the builder has constructed the vessel to the municipality's specifications and will check that everything works correctly.

"We take the ferries out into the harbour and we do a series of trials," he said. "Could be emergency stops, certainly we'll do a boat fire drill, we'll do a person overboard drills, recoveries, those types of things to make sure all the systems are working. Also that Transport Canada is satisfied that the crews have the right proficiencies to operate the ferries."      

So far, every ferry Halifax Transit has received only needed minor "tweaking," according to McCann.

Security features like closed-circuit video cameras and key card systems still need to be installed. After that the ferry will be ready to start its runs across the harbour.

McCann hopes that by mid-month the Vincent Coleman will be ready for public use. No official date has been announced for when the ferry will go into service.  

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David Burke

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David Burke is a reporter in Halifax who covers everything from politics to science. His reports have been featured on The National, World Report and As it Happens, as well as the Information Morning shows in Halifax and Cape Breton.