Users of the Strait of Belle Isle ferry will have a new amenity when they arrive at or prepare to depart from Corner Brook when the service resumes this coming Wednesday.
The Corner Brook Port Corporation and CAI Nunatsiavut Marine Inc., the new operators of the winter ferry service between western Newfoundland and southern Labrador, have formed a partnership to offer an indoor waiting area for passengers.
The area will be in the heated foyer of the R.A. Pollett Building, the edifice which houses the port corporation’s offices. The building’s parking lot will also serve as a staging area for vehicle traffic.
There will also be a courtesy shuttle to bring walk-on passengers to and from the docked vessel.
In the past two seasons, there was no indoor facility to accommodate waiting passengers.
“The feedback from previous operations was that people were having a hard time finding facilities, so we’ve come to a good, positive solution for this year and now we can provide washroom facilities and a heated waiting room in a beautiful location,” said David Chaulk, president and chief executive officer for CAI Nunatsiavut Marine Inc.
Jackie Chow, the port corporation’s chief executive officer, said the lack of a designated area for waiting cars and passengers in Corner Brook was the top issue that needed to be addressed, based on the past two years of the winter ferry service.
“This really presented a problem for people who were being dropped off,” said Chow. “The hope was people could go right on board, but the few times the ferry was running late, people had to wait.”
The designated area will reduce any confusion about where people have to go prior to boarding the ferry, said Chow. It will also do the same for taxi cabs and other vehicles looking to pick up arriving walk-on passengers.
“Now we won't have people out on Riverside Drive wondering where people are going to be,” she said. “Everyone will know the courtesy shuttle will bring people to this building. It will also give people somewhere to wait so they don’t have to wait in their cars.”
Signage will be erected in the building’s lot to indicate where vehicle traffic can park while waiting to board.
The Straits ferry run was made a permanent service recently after being operated as a pilot project for the last two winters. Prior to that, the service was shut down altogether because of ice conditions in the Strait of Belle Isle.
Chow added this expansion of the service will give the ferry operators and the port corporation a better chance to interact with ferry users to find out what they want from the service.
The MV Sir Robert Bond will commence the winter service, which will be comprised of two round trips per week, with its first crossing from Blanc Sablon to Corner Brook on Wednesday. The first departure from Corner Brook is scheduled for Friday.
Chaulk said the operator wants to do everything it can to ensure its customers have a great experience using the ferry.
“We’re looking forward to the upcoming season and we’ll be addressing the needs as they arise,” said Chaulk.
For more information on the service, visit the website www.labradorferry.ca.