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Transportation and Works
October 27, 2006

Government Addressing Ferry Fleet it Inherited

The Williams' administration is making progress on their commitment to address the deteriorating ferry system in the province.

After several years of inadequate policy and planning by previous governments, the administration has taken an approach of strategic and long-term planning to address the challenges facing the ferry system, including the development of a Vessel Replacement Strategy.

The Honourable John Hickey, Minister of Transportation and Works, today said it is time for critics to stop playing politics with this issue and to start working in a more constructive manner for the people of the province.

"Our government recognized very early on the issues facing the province's ferry system and the impact those problems have on our citizens," said Minister Hickey.

"That is why we have worked diligently to identify the challenges, and now we are taking aggressive action to address those challenges. We have already announced that we will start construction of two new ferries this spring and plan to build three more over the next five years. This is real action, and real solutions and good public policy in action."

The minister said previous governments were advised as early as 1993 that the ferry fleet needed immediate attention and that advice was ignored. As well, a plan to address the problem was advanced again in 1999, but was not implemented by the government of the day.

"I cannot speak to why previous governments chose the policy directions they did. However, they can speak for themselves as many of them are still representatives in the House of Assembly.

"I can only reiterate that this government is acting responsibly and decisively by initiating a Vessel Replacement Strategy," continued the minister. "We are proud to be taking a strategic, long-term approach to vessel replacement, rather than implementing the quick fixes and band-aid solutions of the past. That type of policy has only gotten us in the situation we currently find ourselves in."

In respect to the safety of the province’s ferries, Minister Hickey says the province relies upon Transport Canada certification to ensure the provincial ferries are safe.

"These ferries are certified annually by Transport Canada, whose regulations are among the most stringent in the world. They can also inspect these vessels whenever they deem necessary," said Minister Hickey.

"If Transport Canada officials tell us a ferry is not safe, we will pull that ferry out of the service. It’s as simple as that. Safety is, and always will be, our number one priority."

Minister Hickey also wishes to thank the crews of the provincial ferry fleet for their dedicated service and the customers who use the ferries for their patience and understanding.

"Unfortunately, we’re playing with the cards we were dealt but, rest assured, we are taking an aggressive approach to build new vessels and provide the safest and most effective service we can."

In order to address the current ferry shortage, The Department of Transportation and Works will temporarily deploy the Hamilton Sound to do a four-point service between Little Bay Islands and Long Island.

Media contact:
David Salter
Director of Communications
Transportation and Works
709-729-3015, 691-3577

davidsalter@gov.nl.ca

2006 10 27                                                     2:00 p.m.


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