The Province of Quebec has a Ferry Problem, and it keeps getting worse in Spectacular ways.
La Société des Traversiers du Quebec (STQ) operates a ferry service year round from Matane to Baie-Comeau and Godbout Quebec. Without it, there is a 10-12 hour trip to a bridge to cross the St Lawrence river at Quebec city. The detour shortens somewhat with Seasonal Ferries in service.
In 2015, the brand new, F-A Gauthier went into service. the Ferry was built by Fincantieri in Italy, and is powered by LNG. this past December, it was pulled from service due to a technical issue, and drydocked. there is no timeline for its return, however there are reports it may be back in service in August.
STQ was able to borrow a boat from CMTA, due to the seasonal nature of the service, however that was only usable for so long. The STQ needed a long term solution, and was able to acquire the veteran ferry Apollo, which was serving between St. Barbe, N.L. and Blanc Sablon PQ, crossing the Straight of Belle Isle. The Woodward group, who own and operate the ferry have a replacement vessel Qajaq w in service this year as the permanent replacement for the 49 year old boat.
STQ purchased the Apollo for 2.1 million dollars in January, and promptly put it into service. What seemed like a good long term solution became problematic, after only a few weeks in service, the Ferry struck the dock in Godbout February 25th. The boat was repaired, and returned to service March 8, but 8 days latter, on march 16, struck the dock in Matane.
The second collision proved to be the fatal blow, as a more detailed inspection by the TSB raised concerns about the seaworthiness of the Vessel, including corrosion, issues with water tightness, and electrical problems. STQ has permanently docked the vessel, after spending 3.5 million on it.
However it gets worse – As the Quebec government is now stating that Transport Canada inspected the Apollo in 2018, and again when it was sold in January, and determined it was safe. The Transportation Safety board told the Saltwire network however they were expanding the investigation to look at the ferries operation in Newfoundland, as there recent inspections uncovered damage from previous incidents, that appear to have gone unreported.
This raises serious questions about the quality and competence of Transport Canada Inspectors. Concerns have been raised recently about TC inspectors, as at the criminal trial of the Marathasa, the judge found one of the inspectors to not be a credible witness.
The Marathasa was a new build bulk carrier that spilled bunker fuel into Vancouver’s English Bay. the ship faced criminal charges for the pollution incident, but was acquitted when they presented a Due Diligence defense. having one of the prime witnesses for the crown to be deemed not credible by the judge certainly went along way to advancing the defense’s position.
the TSB report into the Apollo, when it is released, should make for an interesting read.