FORTUNE, N.L.— With the start of the tourism season quickly approaching, the town of Fortune is continuing to work with the French-owned islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon on a solution to allow the loading and offloading of vehicles onto the ferry vessels Nordet and the Suroît.
The new ferries can each carry approximately 200 passengers, 15 cars and three tractor-trailers. Currently the islands are being serviced by the vessel Le Cabestan, which provides passenger service only.
Fortune Mayor Charles Penwell told The Southern Gazette he had an opportunity to speak with Stéphane Lenormand, president of the Territorial Council of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, as well as other representatives from St. Pierre earlier this month to talk about possible solutions.
“They had met with the port authority and they had talked about some long term arrangement regarding the fee structure that the port authority is charging and they are in the process of negotiating now with the port authority on that aspect of it for the next few years,” the Mayor said.
Penwell explained that in an effort to keep ticket prices from rising, the French delegation expressed an interest in paying a fee to the Fortune Port Corporation to help offset the lost revenue from the offseason rental of a building owned by the corporation that houses the Canada Border Services office.
In an interview for an earlier article on the wharf situation, Earl Rose of the Fortune Port Corporation explained that because the ferry service will be extended year-round, they will now have to provide the building to Canada Border Services at no charge for the remainder of the year.
In the past the ferry would only run part of the year, in which Canada Border Services would pay rent during the down seasons.
Rose explained that in order to help make up the lost revenue from the rental of the building, ticket prices might have to be raised.
“The intent is to work out an agreement with them so that the port authority can get the confidence to get the wharf built, so that we can take not only passengers but the freight as well,” said Penwell.
He added that the new ferries should be coming into service sometime this month, but will be limited to passenger travel only until a solution can be found.
“I think the port authority is in the process of trying to work out a temporary solution with Canada Border Services where (the ferry) will drop the passengers at (the Canada Border Services building) and the vehicles at another,” Penwell explained. “That will require some accommodations from customs and some accommodations from the port authority to see that that happens.”
Penwell said currently the M/V Aldona, a cargo vessel that makes runs to and from St. Pierre, docks at the pier adjacent to the Ocean Choice International plant in the community.
“She (Aldona) brings vehicles and freight on a weekly basis and Customs manages to clear her in that other location,” he said. “Whether or not they would be willing to on a daily basis is something that we would have to get worked out.”
Penwell said that would only be a short-term solution to the problem.