ARGENTIA, Nfld. – Plans are in the works for a new ferry to start plying the waters from Portland, Me. to Argentia, Nfld., but don’t expect to make the trip anytime soon. That’s because it will initially be limited to drop trailers.
Alexander Printzios, one of the company directors with Bonavista Shipping Corp. (the force behind the plan), told a reporter from The Charter that the ship was to arrive in Newfoundland on Nov. 20.
It’s a former Dutch cargo ferry renamed the M.V. Bonavista.
“We hope to start shortly after that,” he said.
But Marine Atlantic, which uses ferries to link the island province to the mainland, says it doesn’t see any reason to get excited about the new service.
“It’s not seen as direct competition for us,” says Ted Bartlette, a spokesman for the federally subsidized Marine Atlantic. “It sounds like and interesting idea… It may prove to be a valuable service.”
But Bartlette also concedes that while the two ferry services would not be competing directly with the same routes, the idea “may appeal to some of (Marine Atlantic’s) customers”.
He says since the Bonavista won’t carry passengers – it has not been certified by Transport Canada to do so – companies using the service would need to drop trailers in Portland and have other drivers meet the units on the Newfoundland shore.
“The vast majority of our customers are not U.S. traffic,” says Bartlette. “But there is some… I suppose we could see a dip (in that traffic).”
Despite this, Printzios thinks business will be brisk on his company’s boat, which will make the two-day trip once a week.
Ralph Boyd, president of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, says he isn’t sure the boat will be as busy as Printzios thinks.
“It’s a relatively new service. It depends whether people have enough confidence in it,” he says. “I’ve not had any of my carriers making any inquiries about the service.”
He says he has been in contact with several trucking firms that run between the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and Newfoundland.
The reaction is positive because Bonavista says it can offer the lowest rate for the complete trip from Maine to Argentia. The rate that Printzios says is quoted right now is US $2,800 (about Cdn $4,200).
“(It depends) on many parameters,” he adds. “(But), the rates would be lower than any service that is available now.”
Boyd says he will be looking into the cost of running a truck from Portland to Argentia. But for now he says there are still questions about what docking facilities the ship will use.
Bartlette confirmed the new company has approached Marine Atlantic about using its ferry docks in Argentia and, he says, as long as Bonavista Shipping is willing to assume all liability or costs involved, he can’t see why there would be a problem. n
Minister wants an update on promised boat
ST. JOHN’S, Nfld. – Newfoundland Transport Minister Rick Woodford stood in the Newfoundland House of Assembly yesterday, calling on the federal government to outline details of an expanded ferry service to link the province to the mainland.
More than eight weeks ago, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador presented a series of 24 recommendations for improvements to the Gulf ferry service to Transport Minister David Collenette and to MP George Baker.
“We have not received a response from either Minister Collenette or Marine Atlantic on the results of our consultations,” said Woodford. “It is time the people of Newfoundland and Labrador heard what kind of Gulf ferry service we will have next year. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians want to know about the types of new vessels being considered for the Gulf service and we want to know how far along a new vessel is in the approval process.”
The Minister is stressing that tourism and motor coach industries, the trucking industry and tourists will need a full schedule for the year 2000 so that they can start making business decisions and travel plans.
“We’ve been working in consultation with Mr. George Baker, our federal Cabinet representative, and other Members of Parliament … They (say they’ll) continue to work on behalf of the province until a satisfactory conclusion has been reached,” said Woodford. n
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