Editorial: New Digby Ferry Good for Exports, Tourism

Chronicle Herald - December 9, 2014

Citizens of Digby can be excused for feeling a bit smug about their new ferry — that is, compared to Yarmouth’s Nova Star passenger service to Portland, Me.

With operating expenses of $26 million in under a year, the Nova Star could soon find itself stranded on the unforgiving shoals of Nova Scotia taxpayer discontent after a winter tied up in Shelburne.

The Nova Star depends solely on the province to subsidize its crossings.

But the Digby to Saint John, N.B., run has received $44.3 million from Ottawa for a new ferry plus an operating subsidy worth millions as part of the federal government’s commitment to interprovincial transportation.

New Brunswick and Nova Scotia also contribute to the service, operated by Bay Ferries of Charlottetown, P.E.I.

The former MV Blue Star Ithaki arrived in Saint John from Greece earlier this month and is now in Halifax for a dockside refit so it can replace the Princess of Acadia in 2015.

That ferry, built in Saint John in 1971, will be put on the market and likely sold for scrap if there are no takers.

The refit includes conversion of the ship’s engines from heavy fuel to marine diesel. Bay Ferries spokesman Don Cormier has said the ship retrofit will result in “something pretty close to new,” and he’s anticipating the ferry, called the Canada 2014 for the time being, will attract more traffic.

Transport Canada has the final say on a new name.

The roll-on, roll-off ship was built by Daewoo in Korea in 2000. At 124 metres in length, it is a little shorter than the Princess of Acadia’s 146.3 metres. Its beam is just a metre short of the Princess of Acadia’s maximum width of 20.1 metres.

This vessel excels in its ability to carry passengers, more than 1,300 of them. It can also transport 199 cars, compared to 155 aboard the current vessel.

However, it can only carry 21 truck trailers, compared to the Princess of Acadia’s capacity of 33 tractor-trailers. That has some truckers worried.

“We have lots of runs of Christmas trees down to the States, down to New England states, down to Virginia Beach and so on, so it saves us ... in one round trip up to 14 hours driving,” one Nova Scotia trucker told CTV News. Truckers who transport seafood, a major cargo on the service, are also concerned.

Saint John MP Rodney Weston said late last month that if the trucking industry needs more capacity, extra runs will be considered.

That is welcome news. Commercial clients account for a third of the run’s business, and Nova Scotia’s seafood exports are worth $900 million annually.

With the U.S. economy picking up steam and the Canadian dollar at a five-year low, seafood producers can anticipate higher exports to the U.S.

And the new Digby ferry, landing just an hour’s drive from the U.S. border, will be a key part of that strategy.

So we applaud Transport Minister Lisa Raitt and her staff for investing in an important Maritime sea route that boosts both exports and the Nova Scotia tourism industry.

Read more, click ici pour.