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Ongoing ferry issues “frustrating”

Bell Island residents will gather at a public meeting this evening to vote on whether to accept or refuse a solution being offered by Transportation and Works minister Steve Crocker that could end a four-day old protest.
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Leaders say Fogo Island - Change Islands service unreliable

CENTRAL, NL – The MV Legionnaire made a single crossing yesterday morning before tying up in Farewell so a technician could diagnose a thruster issue that has been ongoing since Tuesday.

The Department of Transportation and Works has put air services in place – helicopters and fixed-wing travel – with medical transport taking priority. However, weather conditions have canceled today’s flights.

It’s the second time the Legionnaire has experienced thruster problems in less than a month. In the first incident Jan. 16, parts were removed from the MV Veteran, which has been tied up in St. John’s for repairs since October, to make the Legionnaire operational again.

The $50-million Veteran, put into service in 2015 to service Fogo Island and Change Islands, has been plagued with its own mechanical issues, including thrusters.

Transportation Minister Steve Crocker wasn’t available for an interview to discuss the ongoing problems with the province’s newest ferries.

Fogo Island-Cape Freels MHA Derick Bragg got to experience his constituents’ frustration first hand earlier this week. He was supposed to be on Fogo Island to help celebrate a birthday, but the ferry wasn’t running.

Braggs calls it “very frustrating.”

“It’s pretty bad when you’ve got to have (another) $50-million ferry for parts,” he said. “It seems like you can’t get two weeks out of either one of those ferries without something disrupting service.”

He calls the ferries unreliable, which results in a service “you lose faith in.”

Fogo Island Mayor Wayne Collins agrees.

Collins said the ongoing problems boil down to two resolutions – having a full-time technician on the vessels to address such problems or getting rid of the nearly new ferries for something more reliable.

“It’s a very bold statement I suspect,” he said, “but to continue with what we’ve been through the last number of months, the last couple of years really, it’s coming to a point where you start to feel you’d be better off without them.”

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