News: New ferry will be 'resurrection' for Bell Island, says Gary Gosine

CBC News - Mar 10, 2015

Wabana Mayor Gary Gosine says there's growing anticipation and hope throughout Bell Island as efforts to modernize the ferry service draw closer to reality.

The provincial government announced Tuesday that it was calling tenders for wharf upgrades on Bell Island and in Portugal Cove.

It's all in preparation for the February 2016 arrival of a brand new ferry, the MV Legionnaire, which is expected to dramatically increase the reliability and capacity of the service.

Gosine said the new ferry and docking infrastructure represents the future of Bell Island. He called it the most significant development on the island since the iron ore mine ceased operation in 1966.

"This is the resurrection of Bell Island," Gosine said. "It's a new beginning."

Service blamed for stunting growth

Gosine expects the enhanced ferry service will lure former residents back to Bell Island, serve as a catalyst for economic growth and tourism, and improve the day-to-day lives of residents, especially those who commute to and from work on the Northeast Avalon.

The Bell Island ferry service is the busiest in the province, carrying more than 530,000 passengers annually and close to 250,000 vehicles.

Bell Island residents have long complained about the quality of the service, with many blaming it for stunting growth at a time when much of the region is flourishing.

Gosine expects that will now change, but he is cautioning that there will be some short-term challenges as the wharf project is carried out.

This is "come home year" in Wabana, the largest community on the island, and traffic levels are expected to be high.

On Bell Island, plans call for a new adjustable ramp to be constructed, and there will be some harbour dredging.

In Portugal Cove, work will include a 40-metre extension of the existing wharf along the inside of the breakwater, and a new mechanical loading ramp. There will also be some dredging.

Some $10 million was allotted for the wharf repairs.

One of two ferries being built

The new ferry is being built in Romania by a Dutch company called Damen Shipyards Group, and is scheduled to arrive in February 2016. The contract is valued at just under $50 million.

The MV Legionnaire will be 80 metres long with roll-on, roll-off capacity to carry up to 200 passengers and 60 vehicles.

It will nearly double the vehicle capacity of The Flanders, one of two vessels currently on the run.

An official with the Department of Transportation and Works said two vessels will continue to serve the run, though which one has not yet been determined.

Meanwhile, a sister ship to the Legionnaire is also under construction for the Fogo Island, Change Islands ferry service. It is scheduled for delivery in September, though a name for the ferry has not yet been announced.

Wharf infrastructure for that service was mostly completed in 2014.

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