Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Marine Atlantic winter season costly due to Cabot Strait ice

Delays and cancellations due to sea ice taking their toll on ferry service

By David Burke, CBC News Posted: Apr 07, 2015 1:07 PM AT Last Updated: Apr 07, 2015 2:06 PM AT
This winter has been a costly one for Marine Atlantic, with crossings cancelled or slowed by thick ice in the Cabot Strait, leading to passengers axing their travel plans and some commercial traffic finding other services.

Marine Atlantic vessels have been trapped in ice, sometimes for days, and when ferries did run it often took longer to get through.

"Going through that ice of course you'd likely burn more fuel simply because it requires more horse power to travel through that ice," says Darrell Mercer with Marine Atlantic. "More engine pressure. Things like that so from that perspective there's a direct monetary impact."

It normally costs between $15,000 and $20,000 in fuel for a ferry to travel one way, but pushing through thick ice drives that price up, Mercer says.

Marine Atlantic also lost money when travellers cancelled bookings after hearing about the ice problems.

"When we were stuck in the ice for that extended period of time there were customers who basically had to change their travel plans, so they didn't travel with us," Mercer says.

"We know from a cancellations perspective any potential customers who were planning to travel with us, then of course saw this situation and rebooked their plans through other alternatives.

"So from that perspective we don't have an actual monetary value to put on it but we know there are indirect and direct impacts that we will see show up later on in the year." 

Mercer said some commercial drivers may have also left Marine Atlantic and decided to travel with other companies, such as Oceanex. He doesn't know how much that loss of business may cost Marine Atlantic.

The good news is the ice in the Cabot Strait has broken up a bit, allowing the ferries to pass through without much trouble. A change in wind direction has helped and while there is still ice on the Cabot Strait, it's not as thick as a few weeks ago.

"Ice conditions have improved over the last couple of weeks," Mercer says.


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