Ferry service makes changes to reservation system

NORTH SYDNEY, N.S. — Following a review of its controversial commercial reservation system, Marine Atlantic has made several changes to the system in an effort to better serve the trucking industry.

For many truckers, the review couldn’t have come soon enough. Since its launch in mid-March, the new reservation of the Crown Corporation’s sailings between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland has frustrated segments of the region’s truckers.

One of the chief concerns was the issue of fleets making block bookings and then cancelling a number of spots just prior to the 12-hour deadline.

According to a story by CBC, Marine Atlantic hopes to reduce those instances by increasing the cancellation deadline from 12 hours to 24 hours before a scheduled sailing. The ferry service is hopeful this will allow more time for truckers to fill the spots aboard sailings vacated by cancelled trips.

“We recognize that there have been serious issues raised, especially from the smaller carriers,” said Don Barnes, vice-president of customer experience with Marine Atlantic. “We understand the challenges they face, and are making these adjustments primarily to address their concerns.”

Before the reservation system was put in place, Marine Atlantic operated for decades on a first-come, first-serve basis with two sailings per day between North Sydney, N.S. and Port aux Basques, Nfld. In the past few months, many truckers have requested the reservation system be scrapped all together, in favour of the former system.

But Barnes says the reservation system has proven its worth to other members of the supply chain and Marine Atlantic has received positive feedback from the bulk of its commercial customer base, and from their customers.

Predictable pick-up and delivery times, improved driver schedules, better utilization of units and reduced delivery time for time sensitive and perishable products have all been reported by users of the system.

“We have heard from the grocery industry that their products are getting on the shelves more quickly and reliably since commercial reservations have been in place,” said Barnes.

Marine Atlantic began its review of the reservation system on May 15 and following feedback from a number of sectors has made changes to the system in regards to cancellations and check-in times, and the fee structure.

As well, the organization is set to implement the online application of the commercial reservations system on June 21. This, says Marine Atlantic, will result in improvements to the timely availability of bookings, the ease of making reservations, and the timeframes for commercial customer check-in.

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