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UPDATE: Wood Islands ferry task force formed to make recommendations on service’s future

The MV Holiday Island -
The MV Holiday Island -

Ray Keenan of Rollo Bay faced numerous challenges when Northumberland Ferries Ltd. had only one ferry crossing from Wood Islands, P.E.I., to Caribou, N.S., last summer.

Keenan operates a major potato growing and packaging operation called Rollo Bay Holdings with his brother and it depends heavily on the ferry service.

“It just adds to our inefficiencies not to have the service,” said Keenan. “It’s our lifeline.”

Keenan will get his chance to make sure this lifeline continues as he is one of three residents of eastern P.E.I. appointed to the Prince Edward Island Ferry Task Force that will provide recommendations on the future of this long-time transportation link.

Joining him are Audrey Shillabeer of Belfast and Scott Annear of Montague.

The new task force will consult with Islanders to identify the ferry service’s importance to the provincial economy.

Keenan says that in addition to its importance to the business sector, this ferry service brings a lot of visitors to the eastern end of the Island.

“The tourism part of it is a big part of it,” said Keenan. “It enhances our campgrounds and all of the social events that are going on. It is very much an integral part to our whole community here.”

This task force stems from a motion Darlene Compton, MLA for Belfast-Murray River, brought forward during the fall sitting in legislature.

The motion was unanimously supported from all parties.

Compton said she is happy to hear about the announcement and feels the three people selected are a good representation of eastern P.E.I.

“I hope that this task force will have meaningful consultation with stakeholders so that we develop a long-term plan for the ferry service.”

Compton feels the first thing the task force should do is organize some sort of meeting between Northumberland Ferries and the federal transportation department to discuss the future of the ferry.

In the long-term, Compton said the big goal should be new and “greener” ferries that are efficient and timely.

The provincial cabinet will share the task force's recommendations with the federal government since the ferry service is a federal responsibility.

“Our government has been firm in its position that Prince Edward Island requires the full service of two ferries, and we look forward to receiving the task force’s recommendations as we continue to reiterate to the federal government the need for full service,” said Premier Wade MacLauchlan.

Northumberland Ferries Ltd. announced in June 2016 that it would not be able to operate a full two-ferry service due to the major repairs needed on one of the ships.

Although the province attempted to secure a second ferry, for most of the 2016 season, only one ship was making the crossing between Caribou and Wood Islands.

“Last summer is a good example of what not to do because we had aging ships that simply broke down and there seems to be a disconnect there,” said Keenan. “I think that is one of those things we need to address first and foremost, as well as the longevity of the service.”

Keenan added the task force hopes to meet up sometime this month.

“There is only one outcome of it, and we have to be successful to keep the service not only going but enhanced.”

Task force goals:

- Highlight any policy objectives that should be addressed by both the provincial and federal governments

- Provide information on revenue, operational costs, long-term infrastructure and capital requirements

- Identify the potential traffic for ferry service for the next five to 10 years.

About the three people appointed to the task force:

-Ray Keenan, of Rollo Bay, and his brother operate Rollo Bay Holdings, a major growing and packaging operation.

-Audrey Shillabeer, of Belfast, is the administrator of the Wood Islands and Area Development Corporation.

-Scott Annear, of Montague, is the owner and general manager of Morley Annear Ltd, a trucking company located in Montague. Annear is also involved in the tourism sector with River Run Dining Cruises.

At a glance:

- The Wood Islands-Caribou ferry contributes an estimated $27 million annually to the P.E.I. economy.

- It carries around 475,000 passengers, 160,000 passenger vehicles and 18,000 commercial trucks annually.

- The service also provides seasonal employment for more than 200 people.

Keenan operates a major potato growing and packaging operation called Rollo Bay Holdings with his brother and it depends heavily on the ferry service.

“It just adds to our inefficiencies not to have the service,” said Keenan. “It’s our lifeline.”

Keenan will get his chance to make sure this lifeline continues as he is one of three residents of eastern P.E.I. appointed to the Prince Edward Island Ferry Task Force that will provide recommendations on the future of this long-time transportation link.

Joining him are Audrey Shillabeer of Belfast and Scott Annear of Montague.

The new task force will consult with Islanders to identify the ferry service’s importance to the provincial economy.

Keenan says that in addition to its importance to the business sector, this ferry service brings a lot of visitors to the eastern end of the Island.

“The tourism part of it is a big part of it,” said Keenan. “It enhances our campgrounds and all of the social events that are going on. It is very much an integral part to our whole community here.”

This task force stems from a motion Darlene Compton, MLA for Belfast-Murray River, brought forward during the fall sitting in legislature.

The motion was unanimously supported from all parties.

Compton said she is happy to hear about the announcement and feels the three people selected are a good representation of eastern P.E.I.

“I hope that this task force will have meaningful consultation with stakeholders so that we develop a long-term plan for the ferry service.”

Compton feels the first thing the task force should do is organize some sort of meeting between Northumberland Ferries and the federal transportation department to discuss the future of the ferry.

In the long-term, Compton said the big goal should be new and “greener” ferries that are efficient and timely.

The provincial cabinet will share the task force's recommendations with the federal government since the ferry service is a federal responsibility.

“Our government has been firm in its position that Prince Edward Island requires the full service of two ferries, and we look forward to receiving the task force’s recommendations as we continue to reiterate to the federal government the need for full service,” said Premier Wade MacLauchlan.

Northumberland Ferries Ltd. announced in June 2016 that it would not be able to operate a full two-ferry service due to the major repairs needed on one of the ships.

Although the province attempted to secure a second ferry, for most of the 2016 season, only one ship was making the crossing between Caribou and Wood Islands.

“Last summer is a good example of what not to do because we had aging ships that simply broke down and there seems to be a disconnect there,” said Keenan. “I think that is one of those things we need to address first and foremost, as well as the longevity of the service.”

Keenan added the task force hopes to meet up sometime this month.

“There is only one outcome of it, and we have to be successful to keep the service not only going but enhanced.”

Task force goals:

- Highlight any policy objectives that should be addressed by both the provincial and federal governments

- Provide information on revenue, operational costs, long-term infrastructure and capital requirements

- Identify the potential traffic for ferry service for the next five to 10 years.

About the three people appointed to the task force:

-Ray Keenan, of Rollo Bay, and his brother operate Rollo Bay Holdings, a major growing and packaging operation.

-Audrey Shillabeer, of Belfast, is the administrator of the Wood Islands and Area Development Corporation.

-Scott Annear, of Montague, is the owner and general manager of Morley Annear Ltd, a trucking company located in Montague. Annear is also involved in the tourism sector with River Run Dining Cruises.

At a glance:

- The Wood Islands-Caribou ferry contributes an estimated $27 million annually to the P.E.I. economy.

- It carries around 475,000 passengers, 160,000 passenger vehicles and 18,000 commercial trucks annually.

- The service also provides seasonal employment for more than 200 people.

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