More ferry costs

Prob­lems per­sist for the Vet­eran and Le­gion­naire

The Beacon (Gander) - - News - BY JAMES MCLEOD

ST. JOHN’S, NL — The MV Vet­eran is back in dry dock in St. John’s af­ter run­ning afoul of some ice that dam­aged its hull, and a look at the govern­ment’s rou­tine public ten­der­ing ex­cep­tion dis­clo­sures shows more costs as­so­ci­ated with the prov­ince’s two new fer­ries.

The govern­ment bought sole-sourced thruster pro­pel­lers and other equip­ment from Rolls Royce for the Vet­eran and Le­gion­naire at a cost of $120,101.47, plus a $13,777.96 vac pump for the Vet­eran.

The govern­ment also spent $35,196 in ship se­cu­rity, and $24,185.14 in St. John’s har­bour dues for the time last fall when the Le­gion­naire was tied up here be­fore go­ing into ser­vice, await­ing up­grades to the Bell Is­land and Por­tu­gal Cove ferry ter­mi­nals.

The prov­ince also paid $63,366.60 in pi­lotage fees for the Le­gion­naire.

Ice dam­age

When it comes to the dry dock re­pairs cur­rently un­der­way for the Vet­eran, Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Al Hawkins said that the Vet­eran is cur­rently in dry dock be­cause of dam­age caused by the un­usu­ally heavy ice off the north­east coast.

“See, they’re ice-class but they’re not ice­break­ers,” Hawkins said.

“We had to be very, very care­ful. The ice con­di­tions were just ter­ri­ble, ac­tu­ally.”

Tory MHA David Brazil, who rep­re­sents Bell Is­land and was in govern­ment when the fer­ries were pur­chased, said that be­cause they’re brand new, there’s a learn­ing curve.

“This boat is much heav­ier than what they’ve been used to. So guys are com­ing in full steam to try to get into the dock, and com­ing in to push ice away,” Brazil said.

“My un­der­stand­ing is this is one of those unique ones, that there was a heavy piece of ice that had ap­par­ently got grounded, and when it struck, there’s no give in it.”

As for the thrusters, that was a sep­a­rate in­ci­dent where some de­bris was kicked up and sucked into the mech­a­nism, caus­ing dam­age, Hawkins said.

Again, Brazil said this is a func­tion of get­ting used to the new boats.

“See, the thrusters on that are so pow­er­ful that one of the big­gest is­sues at the time we had to be cog­nizant of was mak­ing sure we did enough dredg­ing in port ar­eas,” he said.

“If they grab into (har­bour de­bris) with so much power to suction, if the skip­per is putting on his thrusters to turn or re­verse, all that suction is pulling and grab­bing at what­ever is there.”

Plagued with prob­lems

The lat­est costs come af­ter a whole whack of is­sues that caused prob­lems when the ves­sels were first de­liv­ered.

They were bought from a Ro­ma­nian ship­yard at a cost of about $50 mil­lion each, but there have been a raft of prob­lems, in­clud­ing a small fire on board the Vet­eran shortly af­ter it en­tered ser­vice.

New Demo­crat Leader Earle McCurdy said it seems like the govern­ment bought the wrong boats; es­pe­cially for the short Bell Is­land run.

“It’s a fairly high-end boat in terms of the fin­ish­ings and so on, but boy, they don’t seem to be all that suited to our ge­o­graphic prob­lems,” McCurdy said.

Hawkins wouldn’t to­tally con­demn the ves­sels, but he said the govern­ment needs to make do with what it’s got at this point.

“You know, when you’re given a lemon, you try to make lemon­ade,” he said.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

The MV Vet­eran is shown in St. John’s har­bour in 2016.

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