Windsor

Ontario ferry company suing government, coast guard after causeway destroyed

The family-owned ferry service hasn't operated since ice crushed a causeway in 2018.

The ferry service has not ran since the incident in January 2018

Owners of the Bluewater Ferry say a passing Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker pushed an ice shelf into the company's causeway, causing it to collapse. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

A family-owned company that's been operating an international ferry service near Sarnia, Ont. for more than 60 years is suing the Canadian government, Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) and a number of American shipping companies for $6,000,000. 

It stems from an incident on January 11, 2018 when a causeway leading to the Bluewater Ferry was crushed by ice. The boat has ferried workers and tourists across the St. Clair River in Sombra, Ont., south of Sarnia, for many years.

The Bluewater Ferry company said the CCG Samuel Risley was traveling at excessive speeds for the ice conditions, escorting too many ships given those conditions, and that the icebreaker operated in conditions which the CCG "knew or ought to have known were likely to cause property damage."

The company made the allegations in a statement of claim filed to the Superior Court of Justice in Sarnia Wednesday morning. 

Loss of ferry, duty free operations

Sarnia-Lambton MP Marilyn Gladu said she can no longer speak about the ferry, due to the "legal measures now being actively taken."

Gladu did say she felt as though the federal government "should have responded to multiple requests to rebuild the causeway in order to re-open the federally-run customs office."

The Canada's Attorney General's Office and the named shipping companies were not immediately available to comment. 

In an email statement from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, a spokesperson said the department can't provide comment because the matter is before the courts.

Bluewater Ferry said that the shifting ice destroyed the causeway, cutting access to their Sombra ferry terminal. They also allege the ice caused extensive damage to their small boat dock.

Dalgety said operations are at a "stand still" as the damaged to the causeway has rendered the dock useless. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The ferry service, which makes roughly 10,000 trips a year according to the statement of claim, has not operated since the incident in 2018.

The owner's claim that the duty free-shop has also stopped operating, and they believe the location "is at risk of losing its duty-free sales liecene."

Seeking millions for repairs, losses

The owners said they are suffering from the loss of income from ferry operations and renting their facility, which totals $750,000 a year. 

They estimate repair costs for the causeway will exceed $3 million, which includes removal of the damaged causeway and installing a "new, three-span bridge" to the island where the terminal sits. 

None of the claims have been proven in court. 

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