Nfld. & Labrador

2 shipyards vying to build new Marine Atlantic ferry

The new ship is still three to four years away, but the Crown corporation has released new details of its construction.

New ship won't join the fleet until at least 2023

The ferry Leif Ericson was built in Norway in 1991, and has been in service for Marine Atlantic since 2001. (Marine Atlantic)

Marine Atlantic has released more details on its new ferry, including the names of the two shipyards competing to build it and an estimated timeline for completion.

Two European companies, Stena North Sea Limited and Rederi AB Gotland, beat out two other companies to make the short list and move on to the next stage of the process, with the end result of having a ship in service in about three to four years' time.

The goal is to replace the oldest ferry in Marine Atlantic's lineup, the Leif Ericson, which was built in 1991.

"We are at a stage now to move forward and replace that vessel, and we're are quite excited to get to that stage," said Darrel Mercer, Marine Atlantic's communications officer.

The Leif Ericson is dedicated to commercial traffic, and significantly smaller than the other Marine Atlantic ferries, able to hold 50 to 60 commercial vehicles compared with the Blue Puttees' and Highlander's capacities of 90-100.

The new ferry, said Mercer, will be similar to the Blue Puttees and the Highlander, both in size and amenities such as cabins and food service.

"There is an opportunity for us to bring in a vessel that's new, modern and efficient," said Mercer.

Marine Atlantic hopes to have the new ship in service during the 2023-24 fiscal year, according to a press release.

Money to pay for the new ship was announced in the 2019 federal budget, without an exact dollar figure attached. The financials remain a mystery, as Mercer said the ship's cost will be kept under wraps during the procurement process, but will eventually be released publicly.

The Blue Puttees, seen here, can carry about a third more commercial vehicles than the Leif Ericson.

Try before you buy

Before that money is spent, Mercer said, the new ship will be put through a trial period of approximately five years to determine if it meets Marine Atlantic's standards on the run between North Sydney and Port aux Basques.

"From our perspective, it removes the risk. If the vessel comes in and it's not the right fit, then we're not tied to it," said Mercer.

The Blue Puttees and Highlander were both purchased using the same trial process, he said.

The fate of the Leif Ericson once the new vessel is in service is yet to be decided, said Mercer, with any movement on that happening in partnership with the federal government.

Also not settled is what the new ferry would be named, and how that process would be done. The Atlantic Vision, used by Marine Atlantic although not owned by the corporation, was named as part of a public consultation. The Blue Puttees and Highlander were chosen by the federal government to honour the military history of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.

Mercer said more details on the name will be decided down the road.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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