Marine Atlantic says new ferry will finally be ready for Argentia run Wednesday | CBC News

A large ferry floats on the water.
Marine Atlantic says the Ala’suinu ferry is set to make its first trip from North Sydney to Argentia on Wednesday. (Marine Atlantic)

Marine Atlantic says its new ferry’s mechanical issues have been fixed, and the Ala’suinu will be ready for its first North Sydney-Argentia run on Wednesday.

Darrell Mercer, the Crown corporation’s communications manager, says the vessel left North Sydney, N.S., on Tuesday morning for a trial port run to Port aux Basques, on Newfoundland’s west coast. The vessel was scheduled to return to North Sydney on Tuesday night for more tests. 

“Right now we’re progressing in the right direction for the first departure to Argentia tomorrow evening out of North Sydney,” Mercer told CBC News on Tuesday.

The Ala’suinu ferry’s first voyage was originally scheduled to have its first run on June 14. But in early June, while technicians were removing debris from the vessel’s fuel line, discovered during maintenance in the leadup to launch, they also discovered issues with its lubrication system that took longer than expected to fix.

Customers impacted

Mercer says the delays have affected around 7,000 to 8,000 passengers booked to travel to Argentia. 

Many customers were redirected to Port aux Basques — 850 kilometres from the Argentia port — where extra crossings were added. 

Mercer acknowledged it’s not ideal for customers but the goal was to move tourists and commercial traffic on and off the island as efficiently as they could. 

WATCH | Finally, all aboard the new Marine Atlantic ferry: 

After weeks of delays, Marine Atlantic’s new ferry finally in service for Argentia-North Sydney route

While the two major issues that stalled the launch of the new Marine Atlantic ferry, the Ala’suinu, have been fixed, ‘minor issues’ still exist, according to the Crown corporation’s communications co-ordinator, Darrell Mercer. He says travel plans won’t be affected any further, likely not a comfort for the 8,000 passengers who — because the vessel was out of commission — had to use the ferry out of Port aux Basques, 850 kilometres from Argentia.

The North Sydney-Argentia run takes 16 hours, but the North Sydney-Port aux Basques crossing takes only 5½ hours, allowing them to move customers quickly, he said.

Marine Atlantic also offered compensation to customers affected by the cancellations: $200 for adults and $100 for children that could be applied to their booking through Port aux Basques or saved for later.

“Some customers may argue that it doesn’t cover all of the inconvenience that they have, but we feel that it’s a fair offer,” said Mercer. 

Poor timing with increase to ticket price

Marine Atlantic also increased the fuel surcharge on tickets at the beginning of June. 

Tourism Minister Steve Crocker the timing of the delay and price increase could not have been worse, and reflected poorly on the province’s tourism industry. Mercer called it “a perfect storm of circumstances” hitting Marine Atlantic, along with geopolitical tensions in the Suez Canal that affected the ferry’s route around the Cape of Africa on its way to Newfoundland.

“Everything seems to come against us at the same time,” said Mercer. “When we found the issues with the lubrication system in early June, there just wasn’t enough time to fix it.” 

Mercer says warranty discussions are going to take place with Stena North Sea Limited, the ferry’s owner, in the weeks ahead. 

“Right now, everybody’s working towards the same goal of getting that vessel into service.”

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