Marine Atlantic’s new ferries Blue Puttees and Highlanders and now both in service, and despite some early controversy, including one death, things may finally be settling down for the long haul on the Strait.(Marine Atlantic seems to be a target-wonder why?)
It is now time to turn the spotlight on the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador’s own intraprovincial ferry service, operated by the Department of Transportation and Works. The department runs 15 ferry routes within the province, and has been suffering for years with an inadequate fleet. There is good news on the horizon however.
First off are two new 80 passenger short sea ferries, just completed by Pieter Kiewit’s Marystown/ Cow Head shipyard. [Perhaps the yard’s experience with these small ships has put them off big shipbuilding - they have withdrawn from the Federal shipbuilding strategy program.] The ships are reported to have cost $27.5mn each.
The two new ships, christened March 11 measure 42m in length and can carry a combination of vehicles, up to 16 cars. The first of these, Grace Sparkes, was registered in St. John’s on April 19. It will run on the St. Brendans route. It is named for the first woman to run for election to the provincial legislature.
Sister ship Hazel McIsaac, which will enter service within the next month, is named for the first woman to be elected to the legislature. It will serve ports in Green Bay.
These are proper little ships with bow doors and stern ramps. Excellent spec sheets, and photos are on line: http://www.releases.gov.nl.ca/releases/2011/tw/0311n06specs.pdf
In further news, Fleetway Inc was contracted in January to design six more new ferries for a variety of routes around the province. Designs should be completed by early next year, and an expression of interest will be issued soon for construction. These boats will also be built in the province.
See the Newfoundland intraprovincial routes here:
There is also news about the St. Barbe/Blanc Sablon service across the Strait of Belle Isle. This service is operated by Labrador Marine (part of the Woodward Group) under contract to the Province. During the past winter when the ferry Apollo was in refit in St.John's, the service was operated by the Province's much larger ferry Sir Robert Bond, but its Newfoundland terminus had to be switched to Corner Brook, due to the large size of the ship. That service ended mid-March when Apollo returned to service.
However on or about April 15, Apollo damaged a prop and shaft and had to go to St.John's for emergency drydocking. The ship will return to service next week, using only one prop, until the prop/shaft can be repaired or replaced. It will then go back to drydock for permanent repairs. In the meantime the ancient RoRo vessel Astron (also owned by Woodward) will service the route, supplemented by aircraft, since Astron can only carry 12 passengers.
Apollo will have to operate on one prop for several weeks.
For photos of some of these ships see: http://newfoundlandshipmovements.blogspot.com/