Strait of Belle Isle ferry service to see changes

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The MV Apollo’s contract will be up in January, of this year, to provide Strait of Belle Isle ferry crossings. After which, the Department of Transportation and Works will issue a tender for a ferry contract that will last until 2016, when a new ferry should be built to handle the crossings.

According to provincial government several new custom built ferries will be added to the Provincial Ferry Fleet to benefit communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. As a result, service across the Strait of Belle Isle, to coastal Labrador communities, and to Fogo Island and Change Islands will be enhanced, and all ferry dependant communities will have a new 42-metre “swing” vessel to rely on when repairs have to be made to vessels in service.

“Ferry service is key to the economic and social well-being of many communities in rural and remote areas of the province,” said Paul Davis, Minister of Transportation and Works, in a press release. “The provincial government will issue two Requests for Proposals in the coming weeks that will make new vessels available throughout the island and coastal Labrador and ensure a high level of service for many years to come.”

The Department will issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to construct a swing vessel, as well as a new vessel for Fogo Island and Change Islands. The Provincial Government pursued months of negotiations with Peter Kiewit International about the possibility of constructing the swing vessel at its Marystown facility, however, these negotiations did not result in an agreement on terms. Given the pressing need to advance vessel replacement, the province will now make these shipbuilding contracts available in an open and competitive competition.

“The decision to use an RFP process to construct new vessels does not prevent Kiewit from submitting proposals, and the Provincial Government hopes that Kiewit will respond with its most competitive offer,” said Minister Davis. “The company has built two 42 metre vessels for this government in Marystown already, and it is our hope that they will provide a competitive proposal to build a third.”

Proceeding with this RFP creates certainty that new vessels will be in place to meet the service needs of communities that require them.

In addition, an RFP will be issued for passenger, freight, and vehicle ferry services for the Strait of Belle Isle service and for coastal Labrador. The RFP will require purpose built ice-class vessels that have roll on, roll off capability, which are expected to provide faster and more comprehensive transportation services for the region. These new services will be put in place for a 15-year term starting April 1, 2016.

The ferry service across the Strait of Belle Isle is currently contracted to Labrador Marine Inc., which provides the service with the MV Apollo, a vessel it owns and operates. The MV Apollo is capable of taking passengers and vehicles, but the only freight it accepts comes aboard in transport trucks.

The MV Apollo will be under contract until January 2013. The Department of Transportation and Works intends to continue this service by issuing a tender for a ferry contract that will last until 2016. This vessel is supported by the MV Sir Robert Bond in the winter – a vessel owned by the Provincial Government, but operated through a contract with CAI Nunatsiavut Marine.

“Ferry services for coastal Labrador and across the Strait of Belle Isle will be key to continued growth and prosperity in the region,” said Nick McGrath, Minister Responsible for Labrador Affairs. “Providing new multi-purpose vessels will ensure comprehensive service that can address changing industrial, commercial, and commuter needs, which is in keeping with the goals of our Northern Strategic Plan.”

Organizations: Request for Proposals, Peter Kiewit International, Labrador Marine Department of Transportation and Works CAI Nunatsiavut Marine

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Fogo Island, Change Islands Belle Isle Marystown Kiewit

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