Marine Atlantic hoped the ferry Blue Puttees would be back in operation Monday night to begin shipping the backlogged traffic in both the Newfoundland and Nova Scotia ports.
Produce – an important cargo that relies on Marine Atlantic ferries – has been part of the backlog. Newfoundland grocery stores saw the effects due to the delay almost immediately. Although it was only a minor shortage, the longer the delay, the more severe the shortage.
“The effect is almost immediate in produce. The biggest impact for us, though, surprisingly, wasn’t produce. It was frozen meat and fresh meats,” said Kyle Berg, manager of Save Easy in Lewisporte.
Fortunately, Newfoundland is able to rely more heavily on local providers for products such as meats, unlike produce.
Prices remain static throughout the delay and are not affected by shortages caused by delivery difficulties. There are only delays in availability.
Berg said the effects started showing at Save Easy last Monday, and by Tuesday there was a 10 to 15 per cent shortage of produce and a 20 to 25 per cent shortage by Friday.
“The ice conditions right now on the North Sydney (N.S.) side are still presenting us with challenges. However, we’re hoping some of the ice pressures will be relieved this evening (March 23),” said Darrell Mercer of Marine Atlantic. “But we are still experiencing winter conditions and, of course,the easterly winds off of North Sydney will certainly dictate whether or not the ice pressure will continue to increase on the Cape Breton side.”
The Nova Scotia-bound ferry arrived at its destination Friday evening after being stuck in ice for two days.
Much of Newfoundland’s produce comes from out of province in the winter months. As a result, Marine Atlantic shoulders a heavy burden, as it is responsible for carrying the cargo that fill grocery stores throughout Newfoundland.
According to Jan Woodford, communications director of the strategic services branch of Fisheries and Oceans Canada in the Newfoundland and Labrador region, there are currently eight icebreakers working out of the Atlantic region. The icebreakers are allocated on a priority basis; passenger ferries are the first priority after distress calls or emergencies.
“The following priorities are to be considered when responding to a request for icebreaking service: distress and emergency situations; including flood control and ice management; ferries; ships with vulnerable or dangerous cargoes or vessels transporting cargo that is vital to the survival of communities; marine traffic and commercial ports; and fishing harbour breakouts,” Woodford wrote in an email to The Telegram.
The Marine Atlantic ferries are large ships that can carry both cargo and people, so there will tend to be a fast reaction time. That said, the weather determines the work necessary to free a stuck ferry.
“We do have a lot of produce we’re trying to ship with our vessels, but, of course, we’re still at the mercy of Mother Nature,” said Mercer.
Special to Telegram