MV Veteran mechanical problems 'not out of the ordinary', minister says

The Fogo Island-Change Islands ferry is out of commission again with mechanical issues, with a plane and a helicopter hired to serve local residents.

Temporary air services are in place to replace the Fogo Island-Change Islands vessel

The MV Veteran is tied to the wharf at Farewell, as crews inspect a mechanical issue. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The new Fogo Island-Change Islands ferry, the MV Veteran, is out of commission again, although the Newfoundland and Labrador government says it has plans to deal with the setback. 

Transportation and Works Minister Al Hawkins said a plane will fly between Gander and Fogo Island with a helicopter servicing Change Islands.

Although these services come at a hefty cost, Hawkins said the vessel is still under warranty, which eases the blow.

"We're running about $10,000 a day as a cost for the flight services," said Hawkins.

"Right now we're fortunate that everything is covered under warranty for that particular vessel so there's no cost to the province, so we're working with that."

Al Hawkins said the MV Veteran's mechanical issues are being assessed and they hope to have repairs complete as soon as possible. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Hawkins said crews are investigating a mechanical issue with the starboard propulsion unit and doesn't know how long the Veteran will be out of service, as the issue is still being assessed.

We're just hoping the bugs that we're having now are cleared up as quickly as possible.- Al Hawkins

While it is frustrating, he said it's also normal for a new vessel to experience some rough seas.

"We were expecting the new ferry and clear sailings but hey, these things happen," Hawkins told the CBC's Central Morning Show Tuesday.

"Anytime you have issues and problems there is concern, but we're being told this is not out of the ordinary … we're just hoping the bugs that we're having now are cleared up as quickly as possible."

Series of setbacks

This is the fourth time there have been issues with the MV Veteran.

The $50-million vessel first ran into trouble on its maiden voyage from the Damen Shipyard in Romania, after its engine failed.

Then, in late December, the ferry was knocked out of commission for a day because of an issue with its thruster.

Two weeks ago, residents had to be flown by helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft back and forth from the island after fire knocked the vessel out of service yet again.

The Veteran's sister ship, the MV Legionnaire, is expected to be on the Bell Island run in March but Hawkins said these issues do not have him worried about that next vessels operation.

He added that travellers should check with the department's website for updates on the status of the vessel and flight information.