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Marine Atlantic boss explains service


Dear Editor: Over the past several weeks, customers and residents have raised concerns about the service and operations of Marine Atlantic. This summer we have had our share of challenges with our service delivery and we understand our customers' frustration. We know we can do better and we will do better. Improving service to our customers is our priority, and we are beginning this work at the top of the organization with the addition of new vice president positions, including a position dedicated to customer service. And we know more must be done. One of our main challenges is asset renewal. Our fleet and shore infrastructure is aging. The Board and the management team have been working hard to provide the required information and documentation to the Government of Canada for investment in asset renewal. The federal government is listening and funding to lease the MV Atlantic Vision is the first step in this work. This vessel is intended to address the fleet and capacity needs in the short term, while Marine Atlantic and the Government of Canada work together to develop a long-term asset renewal plan.

Letter to the editor -

Dear Editor:

Over the past several weeks, customers and residents have raised concerns about the service and operations of Marine Atlantic. This summer we have had our share of challenges with our service delivery and we understand our customers' frustration. We know we can do better and we will do better. Improving service to our customers is our priority, and we are beginning this work at the top of the organization with the addition of new vice president positions, including a position dedicated to customer service. And we know more must be done.

One of our main challenges is asset renewal. Our fleet and shore infrastructure is aging. The Board and the management team have been working hard to provide the required information and documentation to the Government of Canada for investment in asset renewal. The federal government is listening and funding to lease the MV Atlantic Vision is the first step in this work. This vessel is intended to address the fleet and capacity needs in the short term, while Marine Atlantic and the Government of Canada work together to develop a long-term asset renewal plan.

It is not easy to acquire a vessel that meets the needs of Marine Atlantic's service. When the government funding was allocated, we engaged international shipbrokers to conduct an exhaustive search worldwide for a suitable charter vessel that would meet the needs of our customers. Specific requirements include a large modern Ro-Pax vessel capable of operating in ice and often-harsh weather. Worldwide, there are approximately two dozen ships that currently meet these needs, and of these, only two were available for charter. The MV Atlantic Vision is the best ice-class ferry available to address our capacity and fleet needs in the short-term.

And we are proud the MV Atlantic Vision is part of our fleet. As a newer vessel, it offers our customers many enhanced features that our current fleet cannot. Acting on our customers' wishes for additional cabin availability, the MV Atlantic Vision exceeds our other vessels fourfold. It also has multiple dining options, a dedicated area for commercial customers, and approximately 40 per cent more deck space, which ensured we met the unexpected 10 per cent increase in traffic we carried in July.

The MV Atlantic Vision has been in service for only five months, and in that time, we have identified many great features including its performance in ice.

However, we have also identified areas for improvement, such as additional seating and adaptations to cabin cleaning processes and amenities. We ask for our customers' patience and understanding. These issues are part of the learning process as we become more familiar with the operations of the vessel and as we get a greater understanding of how the vessel can best suit customer needs. We will take the lessons learned from this summer's operation and continue to adapt the vessel for future years.

The 2009 summer ferry schedule was developed to meet the goal of being on-time and with minimal delays. Unfortunately, mechanical challenges with the existing vessels combined with efforts to incorporate the MV Atlantic Vision into our fleet resulted in issues that affected our ability to stay on schedule. The MV Atlantic Vision is much different than the other vessels in our fleet and, as such, we have had to change some of our internal procedures and operations. We continue to make the necessary adjustments to our operations to minimize and eliminate schedule changes and delays.

To further complicate matters this summer, the MV Atlantic Vision experienced a fire in the thermal heating unit. Without question, this incident has had a major impact on our operations. It occurred during the busiest period for the service and affected approximately 32,000 customers. No one likes a disruption to their travel plans, and we extend sincere apologies to all customers. It is no small task to reschedule thousands of customers with over 30 per cent of our vessel capacity out of service. The entire Marine Atlantic staff worked tirelessly to address the schedule impacts and customer needs, return the MV Atlantic Vision to service, and return to the published schedule in nine days.

This is a time of renewal and restructuring within Marine Atlantic. We know we need to change how we do things and we are willing to change, realizing that change takes time. We know the challenges we must address and we are prepared to do so. Over the next several months our goal will be to continue to improve reliability of the existing fleet through maintenance and to improve communications with our customers, which will lead to superior service.

Wayne Follett

President and CEO

Marine Atlantic

St. John's

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