Rate hikes will affect more than just ferry users

Gary
Gary Kean
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The Blue Puttees in Port aux Basques harbour.

CORNER BROOK — Peter Antle figures the four per cent rate hikes announced by Marine Atlantic will have a bigger impact on the average Newfoundlander than it will on the flow of tourism traffic.

The manager of the Greenwood Inn and Suites said the increase in rates for both commercial and passenger traffic, set to take effect April 1, is basically par for doing business these days.

“We’re all in that same game of having that balance of what are our business costs and the overall affordability for making it work,” said Antle. “We have to manage that every year.”

Marine Atlantic is no different, said Antle, as long as its customers are seeing more value for the increased cost of using the services. Antle noted that Marine Atlantic has been investing in improvements to its terminals in both Port aux Basques and North Sydney, and has introduced new vessels to its fleet.

“We have also seen improved overall communication with us as industry operators and with customers in terms of booking in advance,” said Antle. “They are still in the processs of doing those things right now.”

He doesn’t think a four per cent increase will cost the province tourists.

“Is it a concern? It’s always a concern when there are increases,” he said. “But, at the end of the day, if these costs are going towards better, reliable service and better customer service, I think people will see value in it ... I’d be more concerned for the off-island cost of goods, as opposed to the tourism impact.

Gord Peddle owns Atlantica Diversified Transportation Systems. Based out of Mount Pearl, it also has trucking operations staged from Clarenville, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

The 225 tractor trailers in his fleet make between 3,500 and 4,000 crossings on the Gulf ferry every year.

The latest price hike does not sit well with Peddle because he knows the trucking industry will pay it, then pass it on to their customers who will ultimately pass it on to the consumers of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Notwithstanding the investments the federal government is making into our service by improving the facilities and the supply of a couple of vessels, the burden of the operating cost increases seems to be put back on the Newfoundland consumer more and more,” said Peddle. “If that’s the way it’s supposed to be, then I guess they are accomplishing that.”

He said the increase cannot be absorbed by the trucking industry or its customers and should not be more than the rate of inflation.

“I could accept them coming up with a two per cent increase, or whatever the (consumer price index) is, but four per cent is outlandish,” said Peddle. “Before I see a four per cent increase, I would like to see some accountability to their cost-cutting measures.”

Marine Atlantic said the hikes were necessary because the Crown corporation continues “to be impacted by rising costs of materials, supplies and labour.”

Organizations: Marine Atlantic, Greenwood Inn, Atlantica Diversified Transportation Systems

Geographic location: CORNER BROOK, Port aux Basques, North Sydney Newfoundland and Labrador Mount Pearl Clarenville Nova Scotia

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  • gregory neville
    February 16, 2013 - 21:06

    IF THE FERRY SERICE TO NL IS EXTENTION OF TCH WHY ARE THE FARE SO HIGH IN ONT. I CAN DRIVE ON A TOLL ROAD FOR 1.5 HOURS AT 120 KM PER HOUR IT WILL COST $ 12.50 . IN THE USA YOU CAN DRIVE FOR 4 HOURS AT 120KM PER HOUR FOR $3.50 I GUESS JOINING CANADA WAS NOT A GOOD .DEAL THEY REAP THE FISH THEN THE OIL NEXT HYDRO.

  • dave king
    February 15, 2013 - 13:30

    clarification on the PEi bridge - yes it costs, but only ONE direction.

  • charlotte kerfont
    February 14, 2013 - 23:20

    Marine Atlantic Ferry Crossing,,,IS, an extension of the TCH and the only means of supplying this Island with trucked deliverance of goods to the Province. Island residenses are basically isolated and held at the mercy of the Ferry System for travel on and off the Rock. I personally feel the effect of being held at a state of being a Hostage. Residenses and Commercial traffic should be assesed at a more sanitable rating in equity to the cost of highway travel costs. Bagged lunches of Bologna sandwiches is far more economical than the ridiculous price-gouged food provided at horribly inflated ,on-board meals. Every excuse imaginable is introduced in their justification of the big Money Greed. Newfoundlanders get very little and in cases NOTHING when our isolation is not considered in any breaks for Isolation Benefits, nor can we even claim a tax relief on Rent while Landlords reap from Tennants paying the taxes,,most times Landlords don't even Claim Rental Income. It's long over-due for the Political House to step up to the platform and start earning their benefits and represent Newfoundlander and Labradorians in a positive direction. They could start by creating a Rent-Control Board,as affordable housing has in the past few years, reached a level of insanity and unrealistic justification. People on fixed incomes are subjected to absolutely no benefit increases and are forced to sacrifice healthy nutrician as a means to be able to sustain a roof over their heads. POLITICIANS------SHAME-SHAME on all of you. TIME TO GET OFF YOUR DUFFS,,,,you will get a Healthy Pension regardless,,,Earn-It

  • Bredna Hulan
    February 14, 2013 - 15:41

    I agree with you R Young. We travel across to Newfoundland every summer. The boats are dirty, broken things in the cabins such as towel bars, window shades, one of our trips the tv was broken so they moved us to a cabin that didn't have a tv at all, they were bewildered as to where it might be. The worst was the bedding, so worn, and saggy, the fabric so nibbed it was itchy to the skin. When we took these concerns to the staff we got the same answer, no other cabins. Yet half way across the gulf they announce a sale on cabins due to a large number of vacanies, hmmm. The dining room as gone down hill just over one year. Food not great and only one staff person running cash and serving. Wrote letters, sent emails and made phone calls, Only spoke to one person, she said she would file my conerns, yeah, right in the trash I bet as soon as she hung up the phone. 4% of a price hike is too much considering the value is not there now, I will expect less in future. But sounds like they will be improving the terminals since that's where we spend most of our time anyway.

  • Tony The Tiger
    February 14, 2013 - 13:28

    Yes Ada Confederation Bridge 2013 Toll Rates Vehicles First 2 Axles $44.50 Each Additional Axle $7.25 Motorcycle $17.75

  • Barrelman in Cape Breton
    February 14, 2013 - 12:12

    Don Barnes, vice-president of customer experience for Marine Atlantic, is quoted as saying, "One of the big drivers of costs for organizations for us is the ship sails." What an incredulous statement! The sole reasons for the "ship sails" and the existence of Marine Atlantic and the Cabot strait ferry service are the geographical fact that Newfoundland is an island seperated from the rest of Canada and the North American continent by a considerable distance of Atlantic Ocean, plus the terms of confederation that mandates operation of ferry service by the government of Canada for passengers and freight between Port aux Basques, Newfounland, and North Sydney, NS. Fast forward from 1949 to 2013 and look at the changes in the ferry service now. The fleet has gone from smaller, Canadian-built ships that operated under all but the most severe weather conditions to a couple of huge, foreign-built ships. Except for the fact Canadian shipyards didn't get the work, bigger would seem better in principle. But in practice, those big ships spend more time tied up because the newer ferries, while certainly seaworthy, are simply too big to enter, maneuver and dock at Port aux Basques when winds in the harbour are in excess of 30 knots. (Imagine trying to carry a 4 by 8 sheet of drywall or plywood across a parking lot on a windy day and you'll get the picture). There have been a lot iof cancelled crossings lately because of wind conditions, meaning delays in the primary means of getting people and goods to Newfoundland. Meanwhile, a cancelled crossing means less fuel is burned when a ship is tied at dockside. However, when the ship IS able to resume service, it's usually loaded to capacity to clear up traffic that backed up while it remained at the wharf. Sailing full, the ship is operating more efficiently and earning more revenue for Marine Atlantic per passenger/tonne of freight. So while sitting in an automobile or in a transport truck for a day or two (or more) on the terminal parking lot is a major inconvenience for ferry customers when crossing are cancelled, it's not so bad for Marine Atlantic. If you read the corporation's annual financial statements, one issue that appears to take priority now is less quality of servic and more generation of user revenue to reduce the amount of subsidy required (under terms of confederation) from the federal government. And the subsidy amount is declining every year, meaning ferry rates are increased every year. The latest to take effect on April 1st is greater than the cost of living and becoming prohibitive for people and business who rely on the ferry service to Newfoundland, let alone tourists in summer... and if it's too expensive for them to travel to Newfoundland, you can bet they probably won't bother to drive to North Sydney or Cape Breton Island either, where people should also be concerned. It's time Marine Atlantic startedconsulting with and listening to users again, like it did in the 1970's before building (in Canada) the at-the-time largest and most powerful ice-breaking ferries in the world -- The M.V. Caribou and M.V. Joseph and Clara Smallwood. Marine Atlantic should have learned something from decades of operating those noble hard-working sister ships that served them and their users so well before dooming them to such ignoble fateson the beaches of India. Or perhaps it's time the government of Newfoundland and Labrador began talks with Ottawa about taking over the ferry service. After all, the service is first and foremost an essential service for Newfoundland. Why else would it have factored into the terms of confederation? It makes little sense that the service shoudl remain in the hands of bean-counters and politicos in distant, dispassionate, landlocked Ottawa. Oh, yes. And locate its corporate headquarters and base of operations at Port aux Basques. There will always be a ferry terminal and jobs at North Sydney, but that's all Marine Atlantic is to that community: jobs. I once met a long-time employee at the North Sydney ferry terminal who'd recently retired. I asked him if he'd ever taken a trip on the ferry to Newfoundland, even to see the Port aux Basques terminal. I was astonished at his reply, which was, "Once it (the ferry) goes over the horizon I don't care what it does 'long as it comes back."

  • speedy
    February 14, 2013 - 11:48

    Re Ada Millar, ask someone like me who while living on PEI paid to cross the bridge as many as three and four times a month until we finally moved to Nova Scotia, yes everyone pays to travell on the Confederation Bridge. We also travel back home to Newfoundland and Labrador once or twice a year and I agree that the cost is toooooo much for us low income people.

  • R. Young
    February 14, 2013 - 11:14

    I travelled to NL 2 years ago, it was in April of 2011. I was going to fly but as it was last minute the air fare to fly into Deer Lake was completly insane. I found the boats to be filthy. Rented a cabin, the mattress was sagged and the toilet/shower area smelled like raw sewage. I went to the desk and there were people lined up waiting for cabins. I heard staff yelling...sorry no cabins available the waiting list is overflowing. I went back to my cabin, exhausted and unable to sleep. Upon check out I voiced my concerns to the purser. What an arrogant piece of S**t he turned out to be. He blamed me for not seeking another cabin, when I told him the situation at the desk along with the line up he shouted...yes shouted..."You didn't talk to me!!! Cabins were available!" He insulted me before a large crowd of travellers, so I gave him the opportunity to redeem himself by suggesting that he do what he thought was right with regard to my cabin bill. This idiot got even more abusive. NOT a good move on his part, on the offence I demanded my full refund and he still was unresponsive. Next I walked into the dinning area and shouted,"Is there anyone here that was on a wait list for a cabin/berth last nite and were told they were sold out?" Approximately 8 people came foreward. Also, another crew member thay I spoke with the nite before and he backed me. Well, I got off that boat vowing never to ever travell that way again. Oh yes, by the way, I left with a full refund!

  • Foghorn Leghorn
    February 14, 2013 - 09:05

    On the positive side, the Provincial Government will soon be able to save some money, they will only need to run their slick ads within the province. Nobody else will be able to afford to come here, and we won't be able to afford to leave.

  • Paul
    February 14, 2013 - 09:01

    Marine Atlantic costs are already outrageous and another 4% increase is a farce. Pete Antle and the Crown Corp say its a cost of doing business, I say its a cost to pay for their inefficiences and incompetence. Although a modest 4% does not seem too high on the surface, that added on to what you pay now for a VERY UNRELIABLE SERVCE is totally unacceptable. IT WILL AND ALREADY DOES HAVE A NEGATIVE IMPACT ON THE TOURISM INDUSTRY FOR THE PROVINCE. The Crown Corp should be privatized and managed by an entrepreneur or group of entrepreneurs who know how to operate an efficient and reliable business.

  • Ada Millar
    February 14, 2013 - 08:31

    Why is this the only place we have to pay so high a price to use what is supposed to be the Trans Canada Highway? Do we pay to cross the confederation bridge?