Sunday, March 15, 2009

New Ferry for Grand Manan

Published Tuesday March 10th, 2009
Transport Liberal government will likely announce winning bidder for new vessel

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The Grand Manan V will eventually become the summer backup ferry, with Premier Shawn Graham expected to announce a successful bidder on a new vessel today.

GRAND MANAN - One could forgive Grand Mananers for expecting good news today about their ferry service to the mainland.

A funding announcement that brings Premier Shawn Graham and Transportation Minister Denis Landry to the island must have something to do with the ferry.

"It sort of looks that way," Grand Manan Mayor Dennis Green said on Monday.

The premier and other politicians will make the announcement at the Grand Manan Community School at 1:30 p.m., according to a provincial government release.

They will probably announce the successful bidder to build a new 80-car ferry to replace the 43-year-old MV Grand Manan, which carries 25 cars.

The MV Grand Manan runs as the summer backup to the Grand Manan V, which carries 60 cars. The new vessel will become the main ferry with the Grand Manan V serving as the backup.

The provincial government announced the Fundy Islands Ferry Project in August 2006 to build new vessels to run to and from Grand Manan, White Head Island and Deer Island.

The project went through a couple of adjustments since then, including cutting the new Grand Manan ferry to 80 cars from 101.

The province originally planned to award a contract to design and build the ferries, and operate the service for 15 to 20 years.

Three companies responded to the request for qualifications to undertake this contract, but only one submitted a proposal - and it did not include all of the information the government wanted.

Without this information the government could not evaluate the bid or the cost to taxpayers, Landry said in a news release in April.

"Our next step is to seek a shipbuilder to design and build a new ferry for Grand Manan. The Department of Transportation will design and call tenders for new ferries for White Head Island and Deer Island through our traditional process," Landry said in the news release. "We will also be seeking an operator for the service to the three islands."

"They were going with build and operate. Now they're just going to build," Green said.

The $661-million capital budget that Finance Minister Victor Boudreau presented to the legislative assembly on Dec. 9 includes almost $16.5 million for the Fundy Islands ferry project.

While people on the three islands rejoice, some people on Campobello Island ask why the Fundy Islands ferry project does not include them.

A bridge links Campobello Island to Lubec, Maine, but that means going through customs twice to get to St. Stephen.

"We have access to another country, but that is getting harder and harder to justify," Gerry Hicks with the Campobello Island Health and Wellness Advisory Committee said Monday. "As of June we'll require a passport to get gas and all that stuff.

"We're at the mercy of the Americans," he said.

A privately owned summer ferry runs from Campobello Island to Deer Island, but the committee says Campobello needs a year-round ferry link to the New Brunswick mainland.

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