Fogo Island Council addresses ferry issues

Hoping for a replacement vessel soon

Published on April 4, 2012
A decision is expected this week on the Winsor and when it can return to service for the Fogo Island and Change Islands ferry runs.
Pam Snow photo

FOGO ISLAND/CHANGE ISLANDS ­- With the MV Capt. Earl W. Winsor in dry dock and the MV Beaumont Hamel filling the void, the ferry situation for Fogo Island and Change Islands is a continuing issue for residents and businesses on both Islands.

By KAREN WELLS

The Pilot

 

FOGO ISLAND/CHANGE ISLANDS ­- With the MV Capt. Earl W. Winsor in dry dock and the MV Beaumont Hamel filling the void, the ferry situation for Fogo Island and Change Islands is a continuing issue for residents and businesses on both Islands.

Fogo Island Mayor Gerard Foley provided a transportation update to residents last week, informing them on the latest dealings to do with the essential ferry service.

Mayor Foley commented on the good line of communication between the Town, the Department of Transportation and Works, Marine Services and The Isles of Notre Dame MHA Derrick Dalley.

A delegation from council met with Transportation and Works Minister Tom Hedderson in January to discuss the ferry service.

“We are confident that the interests of the resident of Fogo Island are very much in the forefront with the Minister,” Mayor Foley was quoted as saying in the update to residents. “He and his staff are well aware of the challenges facing travellers and of the vital link the ferry forms for medical, travel, commerce and tourism.”

Items discussed during the meeting with the Minister included:

- Improving communications protocols.

- Additional boat and extending runs for the summer season.

- Ticket booth in Farewell and needed facility improvements to deal with traffic flow and waiting space problems.

- Summer schedule extension.

- The 30-minute rule and its application and a reallocation of spaces for Change Islands.

- Water supply at Man-o-War Cove.

- Emergency call outs and alternatives for medevacs.

- Cleanliness of the vessel.

- Replacement vessel for the Winsor.

“Minister Hedderson has committed to making improvements to the service, dependent of course upon budget availability,” stated Mayor Foley. “All the government Ministers that we met with in St. John’s had the same message - this will be a year of spending restraint - but this has not deterred the council from continuing to lobby for improvements.

“It is anticipated that a decision on a replacement vessel will be made this spring, and council stressed the need for having the Winsor replaced sooner than later, even is this means acquiring a vessel from a shipyard not in Canada. It is not acceptable that Fogo Island suffer delays from continued equipment breakdowns.”

In speaking with The Pilot about the meeting with the Fogo Island contingent, Minister Hedderson said while there were a number of issues on the table, the big one is the replacement of the Winsor.

“The Winsor has served us well, but we need a new boat there - that’s part of our vessel replacement strategy.”

The replacement of the Winsor will marke the third vessel replacement by the Province.

Minister Hedderson said they are keeping with the time line to make a decision on the vessel this spring. It has been put to consultants who are in the last stages of finalizing the design.

“I am expecting that to come across my desk anytime soon,” he said. “Once it does we will look at it and make sure it suits the needs and then see where we go from there.”

As for the shipyard issue brought forth by the council, Minister Hedderson said they are in negotiations with a contractor from Marystown and wanted to leave it at that for now.

“When we get the design we will look at all of our options and choose the one that is best at that particular time,” he said. “We need to move forward as quickly as we can.

“I am onside with the people of the Islands. That (ferry service) is an important component and with the proper infrastructure that goes a long way in helping us provide for the better service.”

Condition

As for the current condition of the Winsor, it had been backed into some ice a few weeks ago. This caused damage to the cap around the rudder area.

“When we have damage like that it has to be forged,” said Minister Hedderson. “It may take a period of time to get what is needed made and then put in.

“Then a decision has to be made on if we can get her out under temporary repair.”

The Winsor had also been scheduled to go in for a refit even before the damage to the rudder occurred. A decision was expected sometime over the weekend (after The Pilot deadline) or by midweek related to the options for the Winsor.

Until then at least, the Beaumont Hamel will continue with the run.

“The Beaumont Hamel was originally designed for Fogo, but it was quickly discovered it cannot keep up with the demand, especially in the peak (spring/summer) season,” the Minister said.

Minister Hedderson noted they are trying their best to provide the services that are required for ferry users.

“The Beaumont Hamel at this point in time is keeping up with the demand, but we’ve had some bumps,” he said.

One of those bumps had to do with a sports tournament and an increase in ferry traffic. The Minister said in instances like that, if the Department was made aware of it in time, they could try to make accommodations for that.

There is also a policy in place that if 10 or more cars are left dockside at the end of the day, another run would be put on. Even with that, Minister Hedderson noted there was an incident recently where even with the extra run, five vehicles were left behind. The people still boarded the ferry, but without their vehicles.

He noted the Department would be initiating the summer schedule somewhere around the second or third week in May. Until that time the Department is gauging the situation on a daily basis.

“If it comes to the point where there is consistently a number of cars left behind, we may look at revamping it (schedule) early,” said Minister Hedderson.

Ticket booth

One of the concerns expressed by Mayor Foley in the transportation update had to do with the ticket booth in Farewell and concern over what was said to be a temporary closure “due to budget constraints.”

Minister Hedderson said he indicated during the meeting in January that the ticket booth in Farewell for the fiscal year was “covered.”The ticket booth in Farewell was located there on a trial basis during peak season in 2011. In September there were enough funds to keep it going and see how it operated during the off season.

“It had been intended for our peak season, but it has worked out very, very well,” he said. “I looked at other alternatives, like (payment) on the boat and going electronic, but we are not prepared for that yet because there are some flat spots on that crossing that if you are trying to run things through Visa of whatever that could pose some difficulties.

“So we will continue with the ticket booth.”

Minister Hedderson noted the lobbying effort of council, the Transportation Committee and MHA for the Farewell ticket booth.

“We did have to advise workers that it may be closed, but they will be advised now that it will continue,” he said.

 

Continuing effort

Mayor Foley said that as an amalgamated Council on Fogo Island, they would continue to lobby the Provincial Government for improved services.

“In addition to our meetings and ongoing conversation with Transportation, we will soon meet again with Central Health to review the issues related to medical evacuations and the disruption this creates, especially for persons with scheduled treatments and procedures and specialist appointments off the Island.

“We are confident that by continuing to work together and with the cooperation of the residents of Fogo Island and Change Islands who rely on the ferry service, solutions will be found and we can continue to move forward together.”

 

editor@pilotnl.ca