Nfld. & Labrador

Problem-plagued Fogo ferry not a lemon, says Damen Shipyards

The owner of the shipyard that built the problem plagued Fogo Island ferry says it's normal for a new vessel to have startup issues.

Builder says normal to have startup issues, but promises to fix them

The trouble on the Veteran is with the parts, not with the boat itself, according to the company that built it. (CBC)

The province doesn't have a lemon on its hands in purchasing the brand new Fogo-Change Islands ferry, according to the company that built the $50 million vessel, even though the MV Veteran has been plagued by a series of problems.

"No, you don't,"  said Jan van Hogerwou, North American Senior Executive for Damen Shipyards, which built the Veteran in Romania. 

"I understand concerns when things break down, don't go perhaps how you had envisioned, but unfortunately in shipbuilding, these things happen," van Hogerwou told the Central Morning Show.

The Veteran was brought to St. John's Feb. 1 for repairs to its starboard propulsion, the third time it's been out of service since arriving in the province in October.

There were other problems enroute to Newfoundland and Labrador that sent the vessel back to the shipyard in Romania for an engine replacement.

"Let this be absolutely clear. We will resolve the issues. We will always be there, not just during the warranty period, also long after the warranty period.," said van Hogerwou in an interview Friday from Damen's head office in the Netherlands.

Damen's Jan van Hogerwou (right) shakes hands with then-premier Paul Davis at the handover of the MV Veteran. (Damen)

He said Damen, a privately owned company, has more than 10,000 employees and builds 150 to 200 vessels a year.

"Our reputation is what causes our success. We will not jeopardize our reputation," he said.

Parts problem

Van Hogerwou said in the latest case, "technical issues" caused the trouble, and the company has flown experts into St. John's to work on repairs.

"In this case we're talking about parts from A-1 manufacturers, and we are probably the largest customers. and they will do anything to make sure we and our customers are satisfied," he said.

"These things happen. We're not talking about a series of cars that are produced. These are custom built machines, very complex ships, with an enormous amount of equipment, mechanical and electrical."

Damen is building a second ferry, the MV Legionnaire, for the Bell Island run. Van Hogerwou said both vessels are "very well designed, very well built by a very first-class shipyard."

He acknowledged the company feels "under the gun" because the Veteran serves the public.

"It's the parts that we get from absolute first class manufacturers with the best world wide reputation that have failed so far, and it's unfortunate, but that happens," he said.

"We've seen better, We've seen worse."