PEI

Plans in the works for extra P.E.I. - Nova Scotia sailings

Northumberland Ferries says it could add as many as two extra crossings to its daily schedule, as long as its regular commercial customers are on board with the plan.

Northumberland Ferries hoping to help trucking companies fill void left by docked MV Holiday Island

With the MV Holiday Island out of service, the MV Confederation is currently the only ferry operating on the P.E.I. - N.S. route. (Julia Cook/CBC)

Northumberland Ferries says it could add as many as two extra crossings to its daily schedule, as long as its regular commercial customers are on board with the plan.

Trucking companies that depend on the P.E.I.- Nova Scotia ferry service have been raising concerns since Monday, when Northumberland Ferries announced the second ferry it brings on for the summer season, the MV Holiday Island is in need of repairs, and out of commission for at least the next  four to six weeks.

With four fewer daily round­-trip crossings during the busy summer season, and limited space for high sided vehicles, trucking companies worry their drivers will be forced to wait hours in line at the ferry terminal, or to burn extra fuel and time driving across the Confederation Bridge.

Northumberland Ferries says up to two extra round­trip crossings on the MV Confederation would likely help companies avoid those scenarios.

Those two additional sailings would likely be in the overnight hours — between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

"The key is to actually have sailing times that are actually useable by our commercial users," said vice-president of operations, Don Cormier.

Northumberland Ferries meeting with trucking companies

Cormier says Northumberland Ferries is planning a conference call with 25 of its regular commercial customers, to work out a schedule that will accommodate as many of them as possible.

"They need to be able to deliver the goods they've loaded on their trucks, and/or go load up products ­whether it's forest products or aggregate materials," said Cormier.

"They need to be able to get to a rock quarry that's open, for instance, and load their aggregates and get back on the ship."

Staffing likely not an issue

Cormier says an extra crew will be required to staff the ferry round the clock. He doesn't anticipate that will be a problem, given that the MV Holiday Island normally employs 40­ to 60 of its own crew members, who right now, have an uncertain summer ahead.

"We've engaged our unions in dialogue on how we could accommodate that and do that," he said. "There is certainly well qualified staff in a position to operate the ship 24 hours a day."

Cormier says it's still not clear how long repairs to the Holiday Island will take, and when the ship will be back on the water. He says the company is still working out funding and repair details with Transport Canada.

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