Top News

New ferry for Strait of Belle Isle


Seven-year-old MV Hiiumaa to service region

A new ferry is on its way to the Strait of Belle Isle.

On Friday, Sept. 7, the provincial government announced the MV Hiiumaa will be replacing the 48-year-old MV Apollo.

The news came in a series of announcements attended by provincial government officials in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Nain, St. Barbe and L’Anse au Clair.

The MV Hiiumaa will be joined by its sister ship, the MV Grete, which will replace the MV Ranger on the north coast of Labrador.

“This will have significant benefits to Labrador and to the island as well,” said Transportation and Works Minister Steve Crocker in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. “It will amount to a significant enhancement in the marine transportation network in the region.”

Peter Woodward, CEO of Labrador Marine Inc., the company that won the tender for both contracts, said he’s been searching for the appropriate vessels for at least a decade and is excited about the changes they will bring.

The new boat will provide a roll-on/roll-off service with increased capacity, full accessibility for individuals with mobility issues and a heated kennel for pet transportation.

Like the Apollo, it is an Ice Class 1A ship.

The Hiiumaa will accommodate 60 more people than the Apollo, up to 300 from 240. It will also be able to accommodate 120 vehicles, up from 85 and eight tractor trailers, up from six.

Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair MHA Lisa Dempster said this is great news, since the biggest issue she’s been hearing about the Apollo is capacity.

“We are so pleased to see this replacement vessel with increased capacity for an ever-growing Newfoundland and Labrador,” she said. “I think, in the past two summers, the most calls I have gotten have been about capacity and people not being able to book (on the Apollo). We are now opening up Labrador in ways we have never opened it before.”

St. Barbe-L’Anse aux Meadows MHA Christopher Mitchelmore was excited for the opportunities he perceived for the Northern Peninsula.

“A 12-year ferry contract with enhanced capacity and enhanced capabilities will bring benefits to all the business owners here in this region, whether the RV park, the hotels, the motels, the gas stations, the restaurants and others who aren’t currently in business who are thinking about those opportunities,” he said during the announcement in St. Barbe. “It provides reliability and predictability.”

In case the ship requires maintenance, Mitchelmore says the MV Grete in northern Labrador will be able to fill in for its sister ship in the Straits.

This will allow Labrador Marine to provide continuous service.

St. Barbe upgrades

Mitchelmore also revealed the Department of Transportation and Works have let a contract to conduct repairs to the St. Barbe loading ramp at just under $366,000.

He added they are currently working to increase parking capacity in St. Barbe by acquiring nearby land.

Open deck concerns

Some concerns have been raised on social media about the vessel, specifically that some vehicles will be on an open deck, not below deck as they are now.

Woodward addressed these concerns.

“People are saying these are open deck vessels,” he said. “The main deck on these is down below. It will accommodate the biggest personal vehicles you could possibly accommodate; it will also accommodate forklifts and things of that nature down there. The upper deck is made to accommodate tractor-trailers and construction equipment.”

The Hiiumaa will have two vehicle decks, one fully covered for 72 vehicles.

Both ferries are now en route to Canada for modifications and the ferry for the Straits is expected to be in operation in March of 2019, with the other one coming online in June.

There will be no changes to the Straits’ ferry schedule.

The contract for the Strait of Belle Isle ferry is valued at approximately $11.9 million per year for 12 years, with the option for renewal.

The contract for the Labrador north coast ferry is valued at $14.6 million per year over 15 years, delivered in partnership with Nunatsiavut Marine Inc.

stephen.roberts@northernpen.ca

Recent Stories