NORTH COAST OF LABRADOR, N.L. — The provincial government issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a roll-on, roll-off ferry for the north coast of Labrador two weeks ago, to begin service in 2019.
While it is something that’s been asked for for a long time, the Nunatsiavut government (NG) has some concerns.
Kate Mitchell, First Minister for NG, told the Labradorian lack of infrastructure is one of the biggest issues.
Mitchell said when the provincial government told them about the RFP, NG told the province work was needed on the ports.
“They told us it would handled in the RFP, but it’s just repairs and maintenance they would be doing to the wharves in the communities, but there’s no upgrades to accommodate the roll-on roll-off vessel,” she said.
Mitchell knows of issues with the docks in some of the six communities the new ferry is slated to cover.
Randy Edmunds, member of the House of Assembly for Torngat Mountains, told the Labradorian in an interview that the ports in Nain and Makkovik have been defined as priorities by the province.
“All the wharves will be further inspected and upgraded over the course of the Department of Transportation and Works five-year plan,” he said.
Edmunds said this change has been something he’s been asked about since he became an MHA and he’s glad to see if moving forward. He expects there would be some concerns with the change.
“It’s something new so you can expect concerns, but predominately it’s geared towards what people want, not what government wants, not what the service provider wants, not what suppliers want,” he said. “For the first time the service will be what the people who live in Nunatsiavut and Natuashish want.”
Mitchell agreed a new vessel is something that’s been needed for some time and something people want, but she feels there wasn’t enough consultation with NG.
“They gave us a copy of it the day before it came out and told that was what the RFP would look like,” she said. “That isn’t consultation, that’s dictating it, if you ask me.”
She said NG is also concerned with going from two ferries to one.
Currently the MV Northern Ranger handles passengers and freight and the MV Astron handles freight.
The new ferry will take up to 20 vehicles, which Mitchell said is going to be a tight fit with residents alone, not to mention if tourists want to bring a vehicle on board.
“We think this new ferry would be a perfect replacement for the Ranger, taking passengers and vehicles, but in the RFP it says 20 cars,” she noted. “You’re looking at six communities, so less than four per community? That’s a big concern.”
Mitchell said space will be a big issue, considering this ferry will have to transport heavy equipment and dangerous goods to the area also, which always came in on the freighter.
According to the RFP, the new ferry will leave from Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Currently the Ranger leaves from Goose Bay and the Astron leaves from Lewisporte. Mitchell said they’re wondering what’s going to happen when Lake Melville freezes over.
“Now they’re eliminating that port so things will have to be trucked in from Cartwright when Lake Melville freezes over,” she said. “There are extra freight charges for that and prices are going to skyrocket.
“At the end of the season they are trying to get all the freight for the winter and now it’ll have to be trucked into Cartwright. They told us it would be addressed in the RFP but we don’t see where it is.”
Mitchell said NG is concerned the vessel won’t be able to meet their needs and feel they still need the freighter from Lewisporte so freight can be brought in before winter and without higher prices.