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Transportation and Works
Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs
January 7, 2010

Pilot Launched for Year-Round Ferry Service Between Island and Labrador

The Honourable Tom Hedderson, Minister of Transportation and Works, today announced a pilot project with the goal of providing a year-round ferry service between the Island and Labrador across the Strait of Belle Isle. The project will involve an additional Provincial Government investment of approximately $1.5 million.

"Right on the heels of the opening of the Trans Labrador Highway, Phase III, we are pleased to be announcing another historic transportation initiative that will benefit Newfoundlanders and Labradorians travelling or shipping goods between the Big Land and the Island," said Minister Hedderson. "While this is indeed a great initiative, people should keep in mind that this is a bold endeavour in a difficult winter environment and that over the course of the winter we may encounter conditions that, despite our best efforts, cause disruptions in service."

The service by the MV Apollo will continue to operate between St. Barbe and Blanc Sablon until January 31, 2010, or until ice and weather conditions dictate otherwise. At that time, the service will continue to be provided for the duration of the winter season, with two round trips per week, between Corner Brook and Blanc Sablon. The MV Apollo will be taken out of service on February 1, 2010, to undergo its annual refit for approximately eight weeks. During the Apollo's refit, the MV Sir Robert Bond will provide the service. As with any ferry service in the province, service provided during this pilot project will be subject to suitable ice and weather conditions.

Each year the Straits become filled with sea ice, eventually making the crossing between St. Barbe and Blanc Sablon impossible. The Port of Corner Brook is the closest relatively ice-free port with the appropriate wharf infrastructure to accommodate this service.

"This is great news for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians," said the Honourable John Hickey, Minster of Labrador Affairs. "A year-round connection between Labrador and the Island will allow more opportunities for travel, recreation and business for all residents of the province. Each step we take toward enhancing the province's transportation network is a step that brings people closer together and serves to strengthen the economy."

While St. Barbe remains the Provincial Government's preferred port for continued operation of ferry service across the Strait of Belle Isle, the port's geography and location make it unsuitable once winter ice moves in. Once the MV Apollo returns from refit and provided the ice conditions are favourable, service will resume between St. Barbe and Blanc Sablon. Upon the return of the MV Apollo, the MV Sir Robert Bond will be taken out of service for its own annual refit.

Based on the existing policy respecting ferry rates throughout the province, rates on the Corner Brook to Blanc Sablon crossings will be calculated based on road equivalency. Schedules and rates pertaining to the extended service will be made available in the coming weeks on both the Department of Transportation and Works and Labrador Marine Inc. websites.

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Media contacts:

Roger Scaplen
Director of Communications
Department of Transportation and Works
709-729-3015, 697-5267
John Tompkins
Director of Communications
Department of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs
709-729-1674, 728-7762

2010 01 07                                                        9:40 a.m.

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