Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ferry Woes

Nova Scotia/ Newfoundland
Marine Atlantic's big new ferry Atlantic Vision is in the news again. On Tuesday morning at 7:30 NST, while berthing at Port aux Basques, a sudden gust of wind blew the ship's stern against the pier, causing a "puncture" in the hull.
Bad weather and the Christmas rush were already delaying crossings of the Cabot Strait, so this alision just added to the headaches.
Repair crews worked all night and repaired the hole, which was reported to be 4.5 meters above the water line, and the ship returned to service during the day Wednesday.
Fleet mate Caribou was held up by weather and Joseph and Clara Smallwood is firmly planted in the Novadock floating drydock in Halifax Shipyard.
Nova Scotia
Meanwhile the premier of Nova Scotia has re-iterated that there will be no subisdy for The Cat in 2010. Bay Ferries had earlier announced that they would not be offering the Yarmouth/ Bar Harbor/ Portsmouth service in 2010, and that the fast cat will be withdrawn.
There was a small glimmer of hope for the future however. The federal and provincial governments have said they will study ferry services in southwestern Nova Scotia, and the premier said he will urge the feds to speed up the study. He also said the province might make a one time contribution to a freight carrying service. This would seem to imply that the Digby/ Saint John ferry service might benefit if a plan for a new ferry can be cobbled together for 2011. That service, which is also operated by Bay Ferries, using Princess of Acadia is presently on life support.
The blame for all this grief is shrinking US tourism. A downsliding US dollar and an imploded US economy has knocked the bottom out of the tourist business. The passport issue must also be blamed. The reticence of US citizens to acquire passports to get back into their own country (inexplicable as it may seem) was the final straw for The Cat.
There is no doubt that the Princess of Acadia must be replaced. No ferry service can subsist without subsidy, so it remains to be seen if the governments can find money to a) subsidize construction of a ferry, b) subsidize a shipyard to build it and c) subsidize an operator to run it. Any takers?

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