Marine Atlantic's Joseph and Clara Smallwood exited the Novadock floating drydock yesterday and after a short trials trip tied up at pier 31.
Marine Atlantic is under the gun to upgrade its service, including replacement of an aging fleet and shore establishment.
After a report by the Auditor General in September 2009, which found that many of the 2004 observations had not been followed up, Marine Atlantic agreed to try to pull up its socks. However, dependant as they are on federal government funding, it remains to be seen if changes are on the way.
Issues - replacements for Caribou and Joseph and Clara Smallwood, built in 1985 and 1989 respectively. Urgent need to plan for this. With the removal of the federal duty on imports it is almost certain that replacements will be built abroad. Lets hope they are new built and designed for this service.
At the end of her 5 year charter Atlantic Vision will probably be purchased and brought under Canadian flag. The ship is too big for the service, yet does not carry the number of cars or passengers that she was expected to. This is what happens when you try to find a used ship.
Terminal upgrades - badly needed.
Security- Pedestrians walking from one side of North Sydney to another are now escorted by commissionaires because they would be violating port security by walking across Marine Atlantic's waiting area. Waiting passengers can't exit the area and re-enter. This hurts North Sydney merchants. Solutions needed.
Marine Atlantic has suffered for years from political manipulation- this is unlikely to change, but perhaps the current government will be in power long enough to arrange for stable funding for 25 years, and get Maine Atlantic on a good path for the future.