Plans sink for proposed ferry sailing

CORNER BROOK, Nfld. — A proposal for a new cargo ferry link between Belledune, N.B. and the west coast of Newfoundland, will likely drown after a report concluded that the service wouldn’t be feasible.

According to the (Corner Brook) Western Star, the Corner Brook Port Corp. says that its study on the feasibility of a marine link between Corner Brook and Belledune indicates a lack of support for the service, which has been pitched for close to a decade.

The report says the high cost of ships, import tariffs, fuel and other operating costs wouldn’t make a new twice-weekly cargo sailing viable. Furthermore, any savings for truckers switching to this up-start service would be marginal at best.

Jackie Chow, the port’s chief executive officer, told the newspaper that trucking companies would also have to invest in assets to set up additional depots in Belledune and Corner Brook, but they would still have to keep their existing depots in Port aux Basques and North Sydney in the meantime.

After years of negotiations, the BPA secured Rigel Shipping Canada in 2005 to operate the new Nfld-N.B. service after the port of Corner Brook was divested from Transport Canada to the Corner Brook Port Corp.

Plans to proceed with the ferry link were anchored down several times in the last few years, however. Most recently, investors shelved plans until after Marine Atlantic’s future was established by Transport Canada. But really, support from the trucking community, seemed to be lukewarm at best.

A second phase of the study will now focus on identifying more opportunities for shippers with the current Oceanex service in Corner Brook and find other ways to increase the tonnage coming through the port, reports the Western Star.

The corporation’s long-term growth, adds Chow, is tied to the replacement of the dock’s existing crane, which is nearly 30 years old and does not have the lift capacity to meet the port’s future goals.

Chow said the port corporation will work to secure the funding necessary for a new crane.

— with files from the Western Star (Corner Brook)

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