Help coming after protests, blockades on Fogo Island ferry route

Frustrated ferry users blocked loading of the Fogo Island ferry multiple times times last week. Now, the provincial government is planning to send another boat to service the run.

Users stranded at dock overnight, say service unreliable and frustrating

Cars line up to board the Legionnaire, which is servicing the Fogo Island ferry route becasue the Veteran is laid up for repair. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

After police were called multiple times to diffuse protests at the Fogo Island ferry, the provincial government is pledging help to frustrated users.

The Department of Transportation is preparing to send the Norcon Galatea to help move traffic on the run between Fogo Island, Change Islands and Farewell.

The boat will move once others have returned to service the Bell Island route.

The Legionnaire — currently on the Fogo Island run because the Veteran is out of service — is operating with only the bow ramp. That means vehicles have to turn around on board, and is leading to delays on the route.

I think it's disgusting- Marina Squires

"We're trying the best that we possibly can with the resources that we have to try to mitigate these frustration levels," Al Hawkins, minister of transportation, told CBC Radio's Central Morning on Thursday.

"I fully understand the frustration."

Protests break out

Tensions on the route have boiled over into protests. Multiple times last week, people blocked off the ramp and disrupted traffic entering and exiting the ferry.

Police were called to the Farewell dock on Wednesday, June 28 to break up a protest. There have been multiple blockades by upset ferry users since the end of June. (Submitted by Blanche Dawe Bennett)

Police were called on June 28 when one vehicle was blocking traffic in the afternoon. A spokesperson for the RCMP said the situation was diffused without any charges.

But police were called back the following day, when protesters blocked the ferry ramp on both the Fogo Island and Farewell sides. That was after crews announced the last scheduled run of the day would be cancelled as the ferry workers had clocked the maximum allowed hours that day.

Frustrated ferry users began to protest at Farewell on June 29, blocking traffic from exiting the MV Legionnaire. (Submitted by Ryan Holmes and Donna Sibley)

Derrick Bragg, the MHA for Fogo Island-Cape Freels, said some people waiting for the ferry slept in the cars overnight once that final run was cancelled.

Everybody is just fed up- Steve Budden

"Can you imagine having to sleep in your vehicle all night?" he told CBC Radio's Central Morning. "You'd be almost too mad for words, wouldn't you — the next morning."

'Everybody is just fed up'

Regular ferry users say the constant delays, missed runs and vessel changes are becoming untenable.

"I think it's disgusting," said Marina Squires, who said she travels on the ferry a few times a month. "I think they should have two ferries going, one for Change Islands and one [for] Fogo Island."

Marina Squires says for all the money the provincial government is pouring into the ferry system, they may as well start work on a causeway. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Steve Budden, a worker on the Muskrat Falls project in Labrador, said he's now considering moving away from Fogo Island. He said the ferry system is just not reliable enough for him to make his flights in Gander.

"It's been ongoing for years, like people have missed doctor's appointments for very important things they have to get away for, and sometimes these doctor's appointments take months to get," he said. "Everybody is just fed up."

Steve Budden says the ferry service is so unreliable, he is now consider moving off of Fogo Island. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Budden said it's becoming obvious the provincial government did not get its money's worth with the Veteran and Legionnaire, which have both seen mechanical issues since their arrival in Newfoundland in 2015 and 2016.

Some residents are frustrated with the way the ferries have been loaded, saying Fogo Islanders or Change Islanders got more — or less — than a fair number of spaces each.

Martin McGrath, who travels on the Fogo Island ferry once a week, says he's not sure what the provincial government could do to improve the situation. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Martin McGrath, another Fogo Islander waiting for the ferry on Wednesday, said the service is just unreliable.

"You don't know for sure if it's going to cross when you come over to the dock or not."

The Department of Transporation says repairs to the Veteran should be completed by July 14.


Garrett Barry


Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter, working primarily with The St. John's Morning Show.