Year-round Labrador-Newfoundland ‘Apollo’ ferry planned

ST. JOHN’S — The Newfoundland Department of Transportation and Works has announced a $1.5 million pilot project intended to provide year-round ferry service between the island and Labrador across the Strait of Belle Isle.

According to the Northern Pen, Transportation Minister Tom Hedderson said the continuous ferry service will open up better travelling and shipping routes combined with the Dec. 16 opening of Phase 3 of the Trans Labrador Highway.

In making the announcement, Hedderson said despite the ambitious initiative,harsh winter conditions could continue to disrupt transportation services from time to time.

The ferry MV Apollo will continue operating between St. Barbe, Nfld, and Blanc Sablon, Que., until Jan. 31 this year or until ice and weather conditions dictate otherwise. The service will then continue for the duration of the winter season — with two round trips per week — between Blanc Sablon and Corner Brook.

The MV Apollo will be taken out of service on Feb. 1 to undergo its annual refit for roughly eight weeks, during which time the MV Sir Robert Bond will continue with the service.

The new service should reduce dependency on warehouses to store four months of stock over the winter.

Some, like Nath Moores, L’Anse au Clair Mayor and VP for the Combined Councils of Labrador, are still calling for a fixed link tunnel running across the Strait of Belle Isle, which is seen as the true answer to Labrador’s transportation troubles.

Moores said, despite the potential prosperity brought by the year-round ferry service combined with the opening of the TLH, truckers will ultimately favor a route with less hassle than the North Sydney-Port Aux Basque run.

He predicts truckers will prefer the ferry-free route through northern Quebec and Labrador West.

Better yet, he added, Route 138 along Quebec’s Lower North Shore.

Each year the Straits become filled with sea ice, eventually making the crossing between St. Barbe and Blanc Sablon impossible.

The Port of Corner Brook is the closest relatively ice-free port with the appropriate wharf infrastructure to accommodate this service.

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