Shot in the arm

Room for improvement
Will proposed changes to ferry service be a boon to eastern P.E.I.’s businesses?

A federal government commitment to examine how the ferry service operates in P.E.I. has the island’s business community in the eastern part of the province breathing easier.

In May, Ottawa announced it was looking at having the ferry operators own the vessels and sign long-term service contracts for the routes. The new system would also require ferry operators to acquire newer vessels to service those routes. Currently the federal government owns the ferries and leases them to operators. Northumberland Ferries Limited is the current operator.

The system has bothered the business community in eastern P.E.I. for some time. The ferry service that runs from Woods Island, P.E.I. to Caribou, Nova Scotia is vital to its tourism industry in particular, and businesses in general. “There have been complaints for a long time in the area about how the service has been operated,” says Jay Adamsson, owner of AOR Web Solutions in St. Peter’s Bay and a board member of the Eastern PEI Chamber of Commerce.

The complaints grew louder during the summer of 2016 when one of the two aging ferries servicing the Wood Islands-Caribou route, the MV Holiday, was in dry dock for repairs most of the season. That left only the MV Confederation to take passengers on that route. Adamsson says not only is the region’s tourism industry largely dependent on the ferry, but so are other sectors like transportation, shipping and forestry.

If the new system is implemented, how will it help eastern P.E.I.’s business community? Newer ferries will improve the reliability of the service, and with operators entering long-term contracts, the region will know the ferries are here for the long haul. “There’s never been any sort of security around the service,” Adamsson says. “Ever since the Confederation Bridge was built in 1997, there’s been a fear it would be used as an excuse to end the ferry service.”

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