Nfld. & Labrador

New Bell Island ferry expected on tickle in July

Wharf upgrades to accommodate a new Bell Island ferry will take a few more weeks to complete.

Legionnaire won't be in service for start of tourist season, wharf work not done

Crews work on the wharf in Portugal Cove so a new ferry can replace the aging vessels now used on the tickle. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

A new ferry for the Bell Island service won't be on the run until at least July, two years after it was launched in Romania, and 16 months after it was scheduled to begin service in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Legionnaire remains tied up in Lewisporte, at a cost of about $25,000 a month, while wharf upgrades continue in Portugal Cove and Bell Island.

The upgrades — which include building a wider loading ramp, a wharf extension and dredging — are needed to accommodate the large new ferry.

The MV Legionnaire was launched in July 2015 and originally expected to begin work on the Bell Island run in March 2016. (CBC)

The job was more complicated than first thought. Design changes and delays waiting for equipment caused the cost of the project to balloon to $11 million, 58 per cent over budget.

Completion of the work, first set for March 2016, was extended to the fall, then to January. The latest update from the Department of Transportation and Works says the Legionnaire should be in service by July.

The Bell Island ferry service is the busiest in the province, carrying more than 530,000 passengers annually and close to 250,000 vehicles.

The Minister of Transportation has asked Bell Island residents to have patience while the wharf work continues. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Residents of the island have said the new ferry should be an economic catalyst for business growth and tourism.

The Legionnaire is the sister ship of the Fogo Island ferry, Veteran, which has had its share of problems since arriving in the province in late 2015.

The vessel was back on the Farewell to Fogo Island to Change Islands service on Thursday, despite mechanical problems Wednesday that had Marine Services booking a helicopter as a precaution.

The Bell Island ferry is the busiest in the province. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)