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Fortune wharf upgrades must accommodate new St-Pierre-et-Miquelon ferries

A screen shot from the unloading of the Suroit, one of the two new ferries for the islands of St-Pierre-et-Miquelon. The unloading was broadcast live on Facebook by Saint-Pierre & Miquelon 1ère. - Facebook
A screen shot from the unloading of the Suroit, one of the two new ferries for the islands of St-Pierre-et-Miquelon. The unloading was broadcast live on Facebook by Saint-Pierre & Miquelon 1ère. - Facebook - Submitted

$600,000 still needed to make necessary upgrades

FORTUNE, NL — The Nordet and Suroit have arrived in St-Pierre-et-Miquelon, but upgrades required for the wharf at the international port in Fortune may delay the start of service.

The vessels will transport passengers, vehicles and freight to and from the neighbouring French islands.

“The new ferries won’t be going into actual services in Newfoundland – not until the spring for sure, because there have to be upgrades done in Fortune,” said Vanina Merkle, territorial community/sales and marketing agent for St-Pierre-et-Miquelon’s Tourism Directorate/Attractive Development Pole.

She added the ferries will also have to do a series of trial runs before going into regular service.

Merkle said upgrades to the wharf in St. Pierre are expected to be completed soon, adding a ramp is being constructed at the location for loading passenger vehicles.

The new ferries arrived in St. Pierre from Turkey on Nov. 28, with the first of the two ferries unloaded around noon on Friday.

“It’s a really very long and slow process,” explained Merkle. “These ferries still belong to Damen (Shipyards) as we speak right now. Once they are launched and everything went well, ownership will belong to St-Pierre. Just to unload one ferry took over four hours.”

Once the ferries officially go into service, the Le Cabestan – the ferry currently servicing the area – will be moved to another location.

new ferries can each carry approximately 200 passengers, 15 cars and three tractor-trailers.

Wharf upgrades

Fortune Mayor Charles Penwell told the Southern Gazette that since the new ferries will load vehicles from the rear of the vessels, the wharf has to be reconfigured “so it can properly go through customs, because it has to be within a secure area.”

The proposed plan is to construct a wharf near the Canada Customs office, enabling vehicles to board the vessels in a secure area.

“The passengers not (in) vehicles would still go through the (existing) customs office, but vehicle traffic is what they need the new wharf for.”

Le Cabestan is not equipped to handle vehicle traffic, so the ferry currently docks side-on to the wharf to off-load passengers.

Penwell said some funds have been allotted to complete wharf upgrades, but not enough to cover the cost.

“The Port Authority of Fortune has been seeking funding,” he said. “They’ve got approval from ACOA (the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency) and the provincial government for a total of $1.6 million so far, plus they’re putting in half a million themselves – but they need about another $600,000- $700,000 to start the project.”

Economic benefits

Penwell said having the new ferries in operation is not only important for the Burin Peninsula, but the whole province.

“Full year-round service to St-Pierre-et-Miquelon is going to mean increased tourism year-round. It’s going to mean better employment opportunities on the Burin Peninsula – obviously there will be more people staying here as they come and go, and more people from St-Pierre coming in and buying things here.”

The mayor said St-Pierre is hopeful that goods now coming from France and shipped to the islands via Halifax could be instead transported by truck through Newfoundland and then out through Fortune, “which would increase the amount of freight coming through here as well.”

 

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