Ferry block bookings cancelling out reservation perks

NORTH SYDNEY, N.S. — As carriers using Marine Atlantic continue piling up reservation cancellations, the ferry service is considering extending the hours before a sailing where a cancellation results in a monetary fine.

According to a story by the CBC, some carriers are booking blocks of commercial spots on the ferry service connecting Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, but then cancelling spots that are not needed just prior to being penalized.

For years, the Crown Corporation has run two sailings a day between Port aux Basques, Nfld. and North Sydney, N.S. on a first come, first serve basis. In mid-March, Marine Atlantic launched its much-hyped reservation service for truckers to book space on the cargo ferry ahead of time.

The system is designed to give companies and carriers a more accurate estimate of travel and delivery times, along with providing a reserved space for trucks or units travelling. Marine Atlantic also hopes the booking system will translate to less downtime for drivers, less fuel consumption overall and reduced wait times.

But now, some truckers are saying they can’t book spots on crossings because they are full. Although when it comes time for the ferries to sail, there tends to be a number of commercial truck spots empty.

Tara Laing, communications with Marine Atlantic, told local media that 12 days into the new system it equated to 670 spots, or nine full loads on the Caribou vessel.

"It’s a huge change for the industry and for us here at Marine Atlantic," says Laing. "We’ve identified some challenges and we’re working on fixing them, and working with the industry as well."

Under the current rules, a company must pay a $100 penalty if their reservation is cancelled or changed within 12 hours of the scheduled sailing time.

Marine Atlantic is now considering whether moving that cancellation period up to 18 or 24 hours before a scheduled sailing would help curb the problem of leaving vacant commercial spots aboard the ferries.

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