St-Pierre ferry feud almost over as Fortune port reaches funding deal
2 $25M car-accessible ferries weren't compatible with Fortune dock without upgrades
Two multi-million dollar — and until now, essentially useless — ferries in St-Pierre-Miquelon will finally have a purpose, thanks to a tentative agreement to upgrade the docks on the Fortune side of the ferry route between Newfoundland and the French territory.
St-Pierre invested in the $25-million passenger ferries with loading docks for cars and freight, but a funding shortfall for upgrading the Fortune port's infrastructure meant cars haven't been able to disembark on Newfoundland soil.
Earl Rose, president of the Fortune Port Corporation, confirmed to Radio-Canada Wednesday that an agreement had been reached between the territorial government and the port authority for the wharf's upgrades.
"We should have everything finalized within the next week," Rose said.
He declined to elaborate on the specifics until a deal is signed, but said the authority was satisfied.
"We're happy with it," he said.
Rose confirmed that the St-Pierre government pledged to cover the shortfall for the offloading infrastructure. While he wouldn't give an exact amount, he said it was just under $1 million.
The port authority and federal government had already agreed to chip in $1 million each to the project, with the province picking up another $500,000.
Rose added he expects the contractor, Dynamic Construction, to begin renovations later this summer and complete the upgrades by the end of the year, with the money going toward an extension on the wharf and a customs building.
"It's going to be a nice project once it's finished," Rose said.
The old ferry from the French islands to Newfoundland was strictly a passenger vessel, but the new 55-metre ferries can carry up to 15 cars and three transport trucks each.
Mayor hopes for economy boost
Attempts to broker a deal have been ongoing for some time, the town's mayor said.
"I think it's been about three years since this was originally on the table," said Fortune Mayor Charles Penwell. "We were beginning to wonder whether it was going to happen."
Penwell said he expected the ferry route to bring more cash to Fortune through tourism and trade.
"I don't expect we'll see a major difference in goods going back and forth in the early going," he said, but in the near future Penwell hopes shipments coming from Europe will pass through the Fortune port.
He also expects the ferry to make an impact on the towns' relationship.
"I think it strengthens the connections between St-Pierre and Fortune significantly," he said.
With files from Patrick Butler and Mark Quinn