Government 'temporarily' buys $2.1M ferry to ensure travel in eastern Quebec

Unable to find a ship to rent, the provincial ferry service said it had no choice but to buy a $2.1M ferry to replace the NM Felix-Adrien Gauthier, the vessel that usually services the Matane—Baie-Comeau—Godbout route.

NM Apollo will fill in on Matane—Baie-Comeau—Godbout route while regular ferry undergoes repairs

For $2.1 million, the provincial ferry corporation has acquired the NM Apollo, which until now serviced the route between Blanc-Sablon, Que., and St. Barbe, N.L. (Radio-Canada)

Quebec's provincial ferry service has added a $2.1-million ship to its fleet, to replace the ferry that usually plies the Matane—Baie-Comeau—Godbout route in eastern Quebec.

The Société des Traversiers du Québec (STQ) announced Wednesday the NM Apollo will make that crossing until further notice, while the regular ferry is being serviced.

The NM Felix-Adrien Gauthier was docked on Dec. 17, after a routine inspection revealed a mechanical problem with its propeller system. It is now undergoing repairs in dry dock at the Davie shipyard in Lévis.

"Our original intent was to rent a ship," said François Bertrand, the STQ's interim president and CEO. "But there were no options on the market on such short notice."

He said his staff did "everything they could" during the holiday period to provide travellers with a way to get across the St. Lawrence River, including chartering flights between Matane and Baie-Comeau.

On Jan. 8, another ferry, the MS C.T.M.A. Vacancier, was brought in to service for the remainder of the month.

But that ship is due to return to the Magdalen Islands to resume its regular service on Feb. 1, forcing the STQ to find a quick solution.

The president and CEO of the STQ, François Chartrand, said he had already been looking for an alternative to the existing fleet before the NM F.-A. Gauthier broke down in December. (Joanne Bérubé/Radio-Canada)

"A service interruption was out of the question," said Bertrand at a news conference in Rimouski.

The temporary measures will have cost the STQ around $1 million to date, Bertrand said.

He also announced a compensation plan for travellers who may have been affected by the travel delays during the holidays. Bertrand said the details of that plan will be posted over the coming days on the STQ's website.

Much smaller vessel

The STQ intends to sell the NM Apollo, which currently makes the trip from Blanc-Sablon, Que., to St. Barbe, N.L., once it's served its purpose.

The ship, built in 1970, has a much smaller capacity than the F.A. Gauthier — room for just 240 passengers, compared to the regular ferry's 800, and for just 80 vehicles, instead of 180.

"We will still be able to meet demand for this time of year by adding more crossings," said Bertrand.

It's still unclear how much repairs to the F.-A. Gauthier will cost. A relatively new ship, it was put into service in 2015.

However, Bertrand said he will seek reimbursement from the Italian shipbuilding company that sold the STQ the ferry for $175 million.


Julia Page


Julia Page is a radio and online journalist with CBC News, based in Quebec City.

With files from Radio-Canada


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