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Fortune council seeking meeting to resolve wharf upgrade impasse for French ferries

Issues still surround loading and off-loading vehicles on the French ferries at Fortune wharf.
Issues still surround loading and off-loading vehicles on the French ferries at Fortune wharf. - Colin Farrell

FORTUNE, N.L. — Issues with the wharf in Fortune are still causing concern for members of council.

Upgrades are needed to the wharf used by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to receive the ferries from St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Until 2017 the former ferry servicing the run was not equipped to carry vehicles, but with the purchase of the Nordet and Suroit, vehicle crossings are a possibility.

Mayor Charles Penwell told The Southern Gazette on Tuesday, July 17 that council would like to meet with MP Churence Rogers, MHAs Carol Anne Haley and Chris Mitchelmore, as well as representation from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), and the port authority of Fortune to try “to get something moving.”

Council is hoping to have a date set for September to meet with all parties involved.

“I think the only way this is going to get solved is if we get everybody in the room, work it out and everybody give a little bit, and you’re not talking a big amount of money from federal and provincial coffers to get this done,” Penwell said.

It had been suggested to the port authority that they get a loan for the extra $1.5 million needed to upgrade the wharf, Penwell said.

He added that if the port authority were to get a loan for the money needed, they would end up paying back approximately $2.3 million.

“That’s not feasible for a small port authority,” he said. “Cause it would basically mean that over half of the cost of travelling to St. Pierre would be fees for the port authority of Fortune, which would totally reduce what St. Pierre are trying to do.

“Plus, the port authority here can’t put all their eggs in one basket, they have repairs to do to the wharf, they have dredging to do…over the four or five years, so the money has to be spent on that, if you have to spend all your money on repaying a loan, you can’t operate.”

Steps taken

Penwell said council, as well as the local port authority has done everything they can within reason to resolve the issues with the wharf.

“It just needs to come to fruition, but it doesn’t seem like that the powers that be (i.e.) ACOA or the provincial government have the wherewithal or desire to get this done.”

Penwell said not being able to load and offload vehicles at the wharf in Fortune put the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon at a disadvantage.

“(St. Pierre) purchased those two boats and had them built to be able to take freight and vehicles, they’re in operation and they can’t get the full use of the vessels because they can’t offload cars and freight here in Fortune,” he explained.

“So, it’s detrimental to them, and it certainly looks bad on the town and the province that we haven’t done our share.”

The mayor added that having the ability to load and offload vehicle and freight at the wharf in Fortune could have far-reaching economic benefits.

“St. Pierre is planning on running these ferries year-round,” Penwell said.

“This is something that we have never had cause basically (in the past) it has been a six-month operation, but being able to run year-round with these new vessels and being able to take freight, there’s a lot of potential increased economic potential for all of Newfoundland … and St. Pierre and Miquelon.”

colin.farrell@southerngazette.ca

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