CFOA in the News: Retrofit of Princess of Acadia ferry replacement begins

Bay Ferries overhauling Blue Star Ithaki from Greece for service between Saint John, Digby next year

CBC - December 03, 2014 

Work on the ship slated to replace the Princess of Acadia ferry between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia has started and Bay Ferries officials are already anticipating improved ticket sales.

The 124-metre vessel, formerly known as the MV Blue Star Ithaki, arrived in Saint John Tuesday from Greece, where it connected the Aegean islands with the mainland for 14 years.

Bay Ferries and Transport Canada officials were busy inspecting the ship, temporarily renamed Canada 2014, to see what needs to be tweaked to get it ready for service between Saint John and Digby next year.

"Looks like she'll be good and seaworthy for our weather, the Bay of Fundy," said quartermaster Rick Farren, who works in the Princess of Acadia wheelhouse.

Farren showed up at the Bay Ferries terminal to welcome the Korean-built vessel, purchased in October by the federal government for $44.6 million.

"We want to make sure the ship is ready and consequently there will be a significant amount of work done to the ship," said Don Cormier, vice-president of operation and safety management.​

Among the work, the engines will be overhauled and converted to burn marine diesel, said Cormier.

He expects the ship will be faster and more efficient than the old Princess of Acadia.

It will also offer improved onboard amenities, including various passenger lounges and a cafeteria, he said.

"People may have no longer considered using the link, but we believe this will be an attraction," said Cormier.

Serge Buy, CEO of the Canadian Ferry Association, says ferries are a critical part of Canada's transportation network.

"The ferries provide a really safe, environmentally friendly alternative to almost any other type of transportation," he said, noting the federal government announced in July it will spend $58 million over two years for operation of the Eastern Canada ferry services.

"We're pleased that the federal government is supporting this way of moving people around," said Buy.

Transport Canada will invite the public to help name the new vessel, said Cormier. The federal minister will make the final decision, he said.

Meanwhile, the old Princess of Acadia will go up for sale and if no buyer can be found, it will likely be scrapped, Cormier said.

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