DETROIT — The operator of the Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry is going head to bow with the Canadian government over what he says are "discriminatory" fees being charged to his small business.
Owner Gregg Ward says he’s been battling Ottawa since the Icebreaking Service Fee‘s (ISF) inception in 1999.
The truck ferry is the approved cross-border service for transporting hazmat trucks across the Detroit River between Windsor and Detroit.
Ward says the fee, which kicks-in during the winter months, is being unfairly applied to his service and threatens to suspend the ferry’s operations.
He claims that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which is responsible for administering the ISF, does not collect the ISF from similar local operators such as the Boblo Island Ferry, which is also at the Detroit River, or the Blue Water and Walpole Island Ferry working the St. Clair River.
Ward tells us he’s forced to cough over $3,100 to cross the one-mile-wide river — the same amount the government charges a ship traveling from Thunder Bay to Buffalo, N.Y.
Plus, the fee really has nothing to do with providing ice-breaking services, explains Ward. In the Detroit River, the large majority of icebreaking services are provided by the U.S. Coast Guard at no charge to Canada, "but still, the Canadian government charges the (ferry) for the services being provided by the U.S.," he says.
While in Canada, all activities of the truck ferry take place within the Port of Windsor. These intraport vessel movements are supposed to be exempt from the ISF, but Ward says he’s charged anyway because his barges leave the Windsor Port to head to the U.S. side of the border.
"It makes no difference to the regulators," quips Ward, "that upon leaving the Port of Windsor, we enter the sovereign waters of the United States."
To date, Ward says he’s spent $220,000 in fees and legal costs (The Canadian Justice Dept. sued Ward in 2005 for non-payment of fees and Ward is also challenging the federal government’s policy in court).
Contacted by todaystrucking.com, Canadian Justice Department Spokeswoman Carole Saindon said it would be inappropriate at this time to comment on a case currently before the court system.
But, so far, insists Ward, "we’ve been denied our day in court." He claims that Crown attorneys continue to delay responses to Federal Court filings and allege to "misplace" relevant case files.
"Such antics are unprofessional and demeaning to the Canadian judicial system," he tells us.
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