Deal struck in Fogo Island ferry standoff — for now

Passengers kept ashore by the ferry service disruption will be able to board the Legionnaire and sail home tonight.

Protesters holding up the MV Beaumont Hamel have accepted a tentative deal with the government

Eugene Nippard said protests on Fogo Island have been sparked by schedule changes. The new schedule for Legionnaire would mean 5 different last-trip times for the ferry over the course of a week. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Protestors who had been holding up Fogo Island ferry service and blocking the MV Beaumont Hamel bound for Bell Island narrowly accepted a tentative deal with government.

The deal went through with a vote of 19 in favour and 17 against.

"I didn't vote for or against it, I reneged," said Eugene Nippard, a citizen's representative on Fogo Island's Transportation Committee, a group acting as a mediator between government and the protesters.

"We didn't accomplish what we wanted, but we're hoping that we're going to have some good news on Wednesday."

The Beaumont Hamel was blocked by protestors who were upset with the schedule proposed for the MV Legionnaire, which will be taking over the Fogo Island - Change Islands ferry runs from Farewell.

The change comes amid a temporary shuffle of some of the province's ferries after the MV Veteran had to be docked because of mechanical issues.

In response to the protestors holding up the Beaumont Hamel, the Department of Transportation and Works stopped all of the runs for the MV Legionnaire between Fogo Island and Change Islands.

According to Eugene Nippard, a citizen's representative on Fogo Island's Transportation Committee, the government said it will start the Legionnaire's service if protesters agree to let the Beaumont Hamel sail. 

Nippard said the government agreed to run the Legionnaire on an enhanced schedule until the committee can formally meet with Transportation Minister Steve Crocker next week.

"Whatever we got to do to prove our point is going to happen [next] Wednesday after that meeting if we don't get the results we're looking for," said Nippard. 

With the Fogo Island Transportation Committee acting as mediator, the protestors narrowly accepted the deal Friday.

Because of the dispute, people have been unable to take a ferry to or from Fogo Island since yesterday.

People stranded

Denise Hoffe has waiting in the ferry lineup overnight, spending the night in her car. She left her house on Change Islands Thursday to go to an appointment only to find she couldn't get home, she said.

The people of Change Islands, she said, were caught in the middle and frustrated with the protests.

"I don't know what they wants, what they're looking for," she said. "I mean, to me, if you can get off the island, it's good enough for me."

Fifteen-year-old Jesse Waterman and his friend Brandon Lynch took people from Farewell to Fogo Island and back via speed boat all day Friday.

"People needs to get off the island for doctor's appointments and that, I suppose," he said.

The boys didn't charge a fee for their water taxi service.

Mechanical issues, route re-jigs and protests

The trouble started when the MV Veteran, a ferry running from Farewell to Fogo Island and Change Islands, had mechanical issues and had to be taken off the run.

To take the Veteran's place, the government reassigned the MV Legionnaire, which usually does the Portugal Cove – Bell Island route.

Bell Island protesters blocked the MV Legionnaire's departure to Fogo Island. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

The MV Beaumont Hamel was set to take up all of the Bell Island runs.

But protests erupted on Bell Island in response to the plan, and a solution was reached after several days: the Legionnaire would service the Fogo Island – Change Islands route, while the Beaumont Hamel and Flanders would service Bell Island.

Then protestors on Fogo Island, who did not get the changes to the proposed schedule they demanded, blocked the Beaumont Hamel from leaving Fogo Island to head to Bell Island. 

The provincial government said the changes they requested were too costly. 

With this tentative deal in place, both ferries will resume service, with two round trips from Farewell to Fogo Island and Change Islands tonight.

Whether that service will continue will be determined during next week's meeting between the Fogo Island Transportation Committee and the minister of transportation.

With files from Garrett Barry and the Central Morning Show