What happens to the Sir Robert Bond after the provincial passenger ferry sails into Corner Brook on April 30 is something the Department of Transportation and Works has yet to decide.
The Bond has been operated for the province by CAI Nunatsiavut Marine on the Labrador service between Corner Brook and Blanc Sablon for the past few winters.
Transportation and Works Minister Nick McGrath said that contract expires at the end of the month and a new one with Labrador Marine Inc. begins on May 1.
McGrath said right now it’s hard to comment on the future of the Bond.
“She needs a significant amount of upgrades done to her,” he said of the almost 40-year-old ferry. “We really haven’t sat down as a department to decide what we’re going to do with her right now.
“Right now we’re in no rush to make that decision. We’re concentrating on what we’re using, not what we’re not using.”
He said the Bond will go into dry dock for some refits, then his department will have to decide what it will do with the ferry.
Labrador Marine was recently awarded a $26.2 million, two-year contract to provide year-round service between Labrador and the island using its own ferry, the MV Apollo.
During the majority of the year that service will run between St. Barbe and Blanc Sablon, weather permitting, then switch to a Corner Brook to Blanc Sablon run in the winter months.
McGrath said the Apollo has been in dry dock and has undergone a lot of work, including a refurbishing of all its cabins.
He also said the Apollo is an ice-class vessel.
“She is quite capable of providing an adequate service from Corner Brook to Blanc Sablon.”
Under the new contract with Labrador Marine, McGrath said the company would be responsible for securing an alternate vessel during times the Apollo would be out of service, including annual refit periods.
“I know they’ve already been into Europe, different parts of Canada as well as into the United States looking to see what is out there now as well as investigating newer ships.”
McGrath said he wasn’t certain yet if the Apollo will start service in St. Barbe or from Corner Brook as that will depend on ice conditions in the Strait of Belle Isle in the St. Barbe area.
McGrath said there are indications the ice is moving now and he is hopeful the service will run out of St. Barbe.
If that’s not possible, he said the service will remain out of Corner Brook until conditions improve. He said there will be no disruption in service.
Who was Sir Robert Bond?
The MV Sir Robert Bond was named for the first Liberal prime minister of the Dominion of Newfoundland, Sir Robert Bond.
Bond served in that role from 1907 to 1909, but prior to that had been premier of the Newfoundland Colony.
He was born in St. John’s, the son of a merchant, and educated in England.
Bond first got involved in politics in 1882 when he ran for the House of Assembly in Fortune Bay.
During his political career, Bond tried on more than one occasion to negotiate free trade with the United States.
He was defeated as prime minister in 1909, however, he lead the Liberals into the election of 1913 in alliance with the Unionist Party of William Coaker. The alliance failed to beat Sir Edward Morris and Bond resigned as Liberal leader.
Attempts to get him to return in 1919 and 1923 failed.
Bond died in 1927 at his estate in Whitbourne. He was 70 years old.