Eugene Nippard was stuck in Farewell Thursday evening with no idea when he might be able to get to Fogo Island.
The MV Beaumont Hamel was being held up at Fogo Island by disgruntled ferry users, with no indication of when it might be released.
Nippard, who is on the users’ committee for the Farewell-Change Islands-Fogo Island ferry service, said he wasn’t angry with the protest action and actually supportive, given the province’s planned changes to the overall ferry schedule.
“It looks like they’re in it for the long haul,” he said, when asked about the apparently growing group holding up the Beaumont Hamel.
Nippard was speaking to The Telegram from a friend’s house, where he went once it was clear a boat to Fogo was no-go.
As of about 4:30 p.m., he estimated about 35 people were waiting with him at Farewell. And more would be waiting at Fogo, he suggested.
“There’s no traffic going either way there now,” he said.
He suggested people are generally upset by the schedule being brought in for the service. It is not what had been expected. For example, the ferry service using the MV Legionnaire was going to run with one fewer trip a day, he said, and the last ferry would leave Farewell at different times every day of the week.
“How more confusing can you make it for the general public than that?” he asked.
These changes were not confirmed as of deadline.
What was clear is the provincial government was set to move the Beaumont Hamel to the Bell Island-Portugal Cove route, with the MV Legionnaire going to serve the Fogo run, but that is now on hold. The changes were all fallout from the loss of the MV Veteran to maintenance through to January.
The fresh protest hit just as the government appeared to have calmed the waters after a similar protest over a planned interim schedule at Bell Island.
At the House of Assembly, Transportation Minister Steve Crocker spoke with reporters after hearing late in the morning about the fresh troubles.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” he said. “We need to provide a service to the people of the province, to these islands, and it’s important we do so.”
He said the only significant change after the protest actions at Bell Island to what had been planned was a switch, with the MV Flanders making the first run of the day instead of the Beaumont Hamel.
Crocker was not prepared to discuss with reporters any potential change now to service plans.
“I think it’s important, obviously, we work with people,” he said. “But I think it’s also important people realize these are interprovincial systems and that they are our highways. And no different than we would not impede people’s ability to travel or commute on highways, these are highways.”
Crocker said the dialogue would continue with ferry users, and made no definitive statements on what comes next.
But he did say the government is committed to having a two-vessel system for the Bell Island service.
A meeting with representatives for Fogo-run ferry users had previously been scheduled for next week, but talks were to be advanced.
“We’ll work with the local MHAs and I’m sure we’ll come to a resolution,” Crocker said.
The province has some limitations in the scheduling of boats, given requirements set out by Transport Canada and in collective agreements.
Nippard said he had no more idea than the minister what comes now.