Southern Labrador ferry contract extended for another year
Government waiting for results of fixed-link study before making decision on long-term plan
People who rely on the ferry connecting Newfoundland with southern Labrador will have to use the existing vessel, Apollo, for at least another year.
Steve Crocker, minister of transportation and works, said the contract for the vessel, which is owned and operated by Labrador Marine Inc, a division of the Woodward Group of Companies, has been extended until September 2018.
"I realize that the Apollo's been there a long time and it's not what the people of Labrador would, I guess, would really like to see continue, but we're only continuing it for another year," Crocker told the Corner Brook Morning Show.
People who depend on the service have been critical of the aging vessel — which was built in 1970 — and vocal about the need for a new ferry.
Trent O'Brien is a business owner in Labrador and is disappointed by government's decision to keep the 47-year-old vessel for another year.
"You don't have to look very far to see indications of other ferries, much earlier in their lifespan, being declared at the end of their useful life," argues O'Brien.
Crocker said government is looking at a number of options for the connection, and extending the contract for another year gives them more time to make a decision about a long-term commitment.
"The reality here is we're looking at an option for Labrador right now, with the possibility of a fixed link that would actually open up a whole new world of possibilities."
Crocker said results of the fixed link study are expected this fall.
"We're going to find out what the opinion is, how it comes in economically, how it benefits tourism, how it benefits the province as a whole."
O'Brien agrees that the fixed link is the worth looking into, and thinks it will ultimately be the best connection to the island. But, he wants to see action and not excuses.
"This fixed link study has started to become somewhat of a smokescreen to hide government inaction on this issue."
"It's become an almost permanent excuse over the last two years as to why nothing is being done, or nothing at least they're willing to share."
Once the results from the fixed link study are delivered, Crocker expects it will take government several months to decide what to do beyond next September.