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MV Challenge One to service La Poile – Rose Blanche ferry route for next two years

Ray Vautier says the community of La Poile is fed up with the ferry service.
Ray Vautier says the community of La Poile is fed up with the ferry service. - Contributed
ROSE BLANCHE-HARBOUR LE COU, N.L. —

Ray Vautier says he’s not surprised by the announcement on Tuesday, Feb. 27 that Puddister Shipping Ltd. won the tenders to service south coast ferries.

The MV Challenge One, which typically services the La Poile to Rose Blanche run, will continue to cover that route for the next two years.

Vautier, who serves as chair of La Poile’s Transportation Committee, says there is an upside for his tiny island community.

“At least we didn’t get the Marine Eagle with (its) 12 passenger capacity,” he said.

The Marine Eagle has covered the route in the past when the Challenge One was pulled to serve different routes, a practice that repeatedly met with solid opposition by La Poile residents. But under the new tender, the Marine Eagle is scheduled to cover the Hermitage – Gaultois – McCallum route.

“I’m not sure what will happen now with Puddisters having all the contracts,” admitted Vautier. “What will be used for (a) replacement vessel.”

Vautier says the Department of Transportation and Works did not consult La Poile before awarding the tenders.

“South East Bight and Rencontre will be the biggest losers,” offered Vautier. “South East Bight will lose the Norcon Oceanus and get the barge Marine Coaster III. Pools Cove/Rencontre will get the 57-year-old Terra Nova.”

He maintains that the department shouldn’t have cancelled the original tender last year.

“The government made the mistake last year when the contractor said they needed 18-24 months to acquire a ferry less than 30 years old,” said Vautier. “That’s when they should have said, ‘Ok, we’ll wait.’ Over half that time would have already passed now and in less than a year we would have had something a lot newer.”

He also believes that no other bidders were able to come forward because of the terms of the tender.

“You had to have a vessel to name in order to bid, which is the stupid part that almost guarantees the same contractor will be successful,” Vautier pointed out. “Takes away all competition. And because the contracts are so short all the time, you can’t expect anybody to buy a decent vessel.”

Related: Government finds savings of around 2.8 million in providing south coast ferry services

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