Marine Atlantic's newest ferry finally making 1st voyage to Argentia, but more disruptions coming

Marine Atlantic has taken possession of its newest vessel, named the Ala’suinu, which will soon begin its journey from a shipyard in China all the way to the waters of Atlantic Canada.
Marine Atlantic's newest vessel, the Ala’suinu, is in service following delays to mechanical issues but will still miss two dates next week. (Marine Atlantic)

Marine Atlantic's newest ferry — the Ala'suinu — will officially be in service Wednesday evening after weeks of cancellations, but there are more cancelled trips on the horizon.

Darrell Mercer, spokesperson for the federal Crown corporation, says crossings will be cancelled on two dates next week due to crewing issues.

"Unfortunately, there's going to be an impact on the July 17 and 18 crossings through Argentia. That's because we need to complete some additional familiarization and drills as part of our safety management system," Mercer said Wednesday, adding the necessary personnel to do the drills weren't available until next week.

The cancelled trips will affect 439 passengers on the July 17 service and 501 passengers on the July 18 service.

Mercer acknowledged it's not ideal for customers and apologized for the further cancellations.

A day ago Mercer spoke with reporters but didn't mention any additional cancellations for the ferry, which missed its planned first voyage on June 14 due to mechanical issues. Cancelling the runs on July 17 and 18 was on the table, Mercer said, but the decision wasn't finalized until Tuesday afternoon.

"Right now, we have an accelerated schedule through Port aux Basques," he said. "[It's] not ideal, certainly not something that we wanted to do, but we felt that that was a better option than having to cancel everything for the next several days leading up to July 17 and 18."

Darrell Mercer is the corporate communications manager with Marine Atlantic.
Marine Atlantic spokesperson Darrell Mercer says cancelling two more dates was a last resort. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

Mercer said not all crew members could complete their familiarization of the new vessel due to commitments they had made to the Port aux Basques service.

"Some of these crew members have been working weeks and weeks without a break. We have to balance their mental health and physical well-being as well and try to give them a break," he said.

"We have specialized marine personnel, captains and officers and chief engineers and various positions that are essential to the operation of the ship. Unfortunately they are in high demand throughout the world. We don't have a high surplus of these positions that we can draw from."

Mercer said cancellations were a last option and compromising the Port aux Basques service would've been the only other alternative.

"When we looked at all the options on the table, we managed to get the people on board to do the familiarization that were available, but unfortunately there were some key positions that weren't available until next week."

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