ST. JOHN’S, Nfld. – The HSC Max Mols, the fast ferry chartered by Marine Atlantic to meet the demands of this summer’s peak season, has arrived in St. John’s, Nfld. to prepare for service on the Port aux Basques to North Sydney run. Although the vessel will only carry passenger vehicles when it begins service this June, it should help alleviate congestion on ferries also used for commercial vehicles.
The Max Mols can accommodate 780 passengers and up to 200 cars and travels at speeds up to 43 knots, allowing passengers to cross the gulf in half the usual time,. Marine Atlantic’s chairman, Capt. Sid Hynes, said. Marine Atlantic is a Crown corporation that operates a constitutionally mandated ferry service between the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and mainland Canada.
In the fall of 1999, during the Gulf Ferry Forum, people throughout the province expressed concern about ferry congestion. Tourism associations, the trucking industry, exporters and the general public demanded more capacity and better service levels on the Gulf run. The Max Mols has been time chartered by Marine Atlantic for an interim period until the newly acquired Stena Challenger is delivered for permanent service.
“This year will see improved service for our customers, with a passenger capacity increase of 50 per cent and a vehicle capability increase of 30 per cent, which more than meets the needs of the peak period,” Hynes said.
The Max Mols will join the Caribou and the Smallwood in providing better service to passengers and commercial interests. The MV Atlantic Freighter will continue to provide drop trailer service for commercial customers.
The trucking industry, important year-round customers, will have priority on the superferries during selected night sailings. The Argentia ferry service will also be maintained with MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood running six days a week, starting June 23.
With the additional capacity, this summer’s Marine Atlantic scheduled gulf crossings increase by 87 per cent – from 15 to 28 scheduled crossings weekly.
One person happy to see the arrival of the Max Mols is Ralph Boyd, president of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association.
“Hopefully, now we can get through the coming tourist season without the delays we saw last summer,” Boyd said.
Boyd said delays have become commonplace for truckers using the Marine Atlantic ferry service in the past several years, with some loads sitting for as long as 18 hours on the dock. According to a report on the ferry service entitled Above and Below Decks, which was released last September, delays cost the trucking industry in the region some $80 million in 1998. The problem has been exacerbated in recent years by the growing truck traffic. According to the same report, the number of commercial vehicles using the service increased from about 68,000 in 1997, to approximately 71,500 in 1998, and an estimated 75,000 in 1999. n
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