Visitors turned away as new Labrador Marine policy restricts travel
Labrador Marine says with reduced capacity, demand from locals too high to allow visitors
A new Labrador Marine policy has put the brakes on one family's vacation plans, after they travelled from the Avalon Peninsula to the ferry in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, only to be turned away.
Kim Dicker lives in Hopedale and was visiting family in Upper Island Cove. When she was preparing for the return home to Hopedale, her parents decided to drive back to Labrador with her, booking earlier this month.
Dicker says her parents confirmed reservations for the Kamutik W ferry, which services communities on the north coast of Labrador, but when her father went to check in on arrival on July 19, he was told he wouldn't be allowed on board.
"They drove 1,600 kilometres, hotels, gas, food, to come here for 12 hours and turn around and do it all over again," Dicker said.
"I think that it's disgraceful."
They have an obligation to contact their people and tell them they couldn't travel anymore.- Kim Dicker
Labrador Marine has restricted travel, meaning the ferry is accessible to local residents only.
With a reduced capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions, the company said there is not enough space on the Kamutik W to cover the demand for all locals.
But Dicker said during the booking process, there was no requirement to provide a home address, and the policy restricting travel to locals only hadn't yet come into effect.
It wasn't until her dad checked in to board the ferry and they asked for his emergency contact — which was an address from Upper Island Cove — that they alerted him to the policy update.
To save her parents money and time, Dicker said, she would have liked to have been notified beforehand that a new policy had come into effect.
"They have an obligation to contact their people and tell them they couldn't travel anymore," Dicker said.
"They should have honoured the reservation they had and put them on the boat."
Solutions needed to allow travel
Nunatsiavut First Minister Tyler Edmunds said the policy was not a decision made by Nunatsiavut, adding that at the beginning of June, Nunatsiavut publicly announced non-essential travel was allowed back into the area.
Edmunds said Labrador Marine should have contacted the family before they made the trip.
"It's really unfortunate what is happening here," Edmunds said. "I can only imagine how frustrated they must feel."
He's calling on the province and the ferry service to work together and find a way to transport more people, suggesting looking at using a boat plane to move people to the coastal areas.
"Maybe that's part of the answer right now in dealing with this lack of capacity," Edmunds said.
Edmunds said it would be "tough to comment" on whether the Nunatsiavut government agrees on the policy, but for Dicker, it's an easy answer, despite capacity concerns.
"I don't think that you can sit down and say, 'No, you can't use this service,'" she said.
"You are a resident of this province just like everyone else."
With files from John Goudie