BATTLE HARBOUR, NL – As a former long-time employee with Battle Harbour Historic Trust, James Jones is wondering why he was let go.
The Mary’s Harbour man operated the vessel carrying tourists from Mary’s Harbour to the Battle Harbour National Historic Site, located on an island, for over 15 years.
However, when the Battle Harbour Historic Trust decided to stop using the Iceberg Hunter, an old boat built in 1961, Jones says he was never considered to return as captain.
And he’s questioning why.
In the fall of 2016 when the Iceberg Hunter was hauled up for the winter, Jones says he wrote the Trust stressing his concerns about the safety of the vessel.
“I knew the boat and I figured it was time for a replacement,” he told the Northern Pen.
According to Jones, the Iceberg Hunter is a wooden boat, even though it’s now covered over in fibreglass. And he says you can see wood breaking down inside the vessel.
He says he told the Trust he’d be happy to help look for a new boat; however, he also refused to continue operating the Iceberg Hunter, given its condition, if they continued to use it in 2017.
On Nov. 29, 2016, Jones says he received a response from the Trust informing him his concerns were discussed at a board meeting, but it decided to continue using the Iceberg Hunter in 2017.
“They never said, ‘you worked with us for all those years, we will still try to accommodate you with a job,’” said Jones. “All they said, ‘seeing you’re not going to operate the Iceberg Hunter, thank you for your years of service and we wish you all the best in future endeavours,’ and that was that.
“I figured I know the conditions of this boat and I don’t think anybody should be anticipating using that boat for the upcoming season.”
Jones decided to contact the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) to let it know the issues he had with this boat.
He doesn’t know what happened next, but the Iceberg Hunter was not in operation for 2017.
The Battle Harbour Historic Trust ended up contracting the operation out to Cloud Nine Boat Tours, a local enterprise.
And now Jones questions why he wasn’t considered to operate his own vessel given the years of service he provided the Trust.
He says his boat is certified for 39 passengers, whereas the Cloud Nine vessel is only certified for 12 or fewer.
And Jones points out that he never said he wouldn’t operate another vessel for the Trust – he only refused to operate the Iceberg Hunter.
“They never tried to accommodate me at all,” he said.
Battle Harbour Historic Trust’s response
Geoff Goodyear, chair of the Battle Harbour Historic Trust, told the Northern Pen the status of the Iceberg Hunter was deemed “uncertain” as a cursory inspection was conducted by the TSB.
He claims the Trust didn’t receive any detailed information from the TSB.
And as the beginning of the 2017 tourism season was approaching, the Trust had to make a decision on operating the vessel.
While the Trust was still waiting for tests and inspections to be done, it engaged Cloud Nine Boat Tours.
“While it’s most unfortunate Captain Jones’ position was no longer required, the obverse of that is that we were able to engage a local business and help the local economy and still be able to provide the services we require at Battle Harbour,” said Goodyear.
At present, he says the Trust still doesn’t have any more detailed information about the condition of the Iceberg Hunter.
A decision will be made regarding the vessel “very soon.”
Goodyear confirmed Cloud Nine Boat Tours would continue operating the service in 2018.
Goodyear says he couldn’t speak to anything related directly to Jones – for instance, why Jones’ operation was not considered when he claims his vessel has a higher passenger capacity – as he was obliged to maintain privacy.
He does say that conversations did not take place with Jones about using his service.
“All I know is that we are satisfied with the services we have procured,” said Goodyear. “It’s a long-term goal of the trust to engage local businesses and the people we have contracted have been in the tour operation and passenger carrying business for quite sometime with a good reputation.
“It’s unfortunate a position was lost but ultimately I think the trust made a responsible decision.”
Goodyear confirmed that all staff is hired and certified by Cloud Nine Boat Tours, not the Battle Harbour Historic Trust.
Meanwhile, Jones says he has no intention of captaining a vessel to Battle Harbour now. He intends to run his own private enterprise, using his boat to give tours of the Mary’s Harbour and Battle Harbour area.