BAIE-COMEAU — the elected members of the Is-du-Québec and Côte-Nord are unanimous in calling for a replacement vessel, ready at any time, in order to be able to take over one or the other of the 13 services of the Société des traversiers du Québec (STQ), particularly the one between Matane and the North Shore, where the ferry F.-A.-Gauthier is halted for an indefinite period.
The mayor of Matane, Baie-Comeau, Godbout, Port-Cartier and Sept-Îles have sent a letter to the minister of Transport, François Bonnardel.
“It appears to us to be increasingly necessary, even essential, that your ministry and your government evaluate the purchase of an extra vessel in order to be able to replace, 12 months per year, every vessel in difficulty the STQ across Quebec, and this, at any time. To tell the truth, our solution would give users the right to an essential service”, wrote the signatories.
The mayors have also taken advantage of this missive to remind everyone that the 13 maritime services at STQ perform every year 115 000 crossings, with 5.2 million passengers and 2.1 million vehicles. “Behind these figures, there are citizens. It is their safety and the economic vitality of their regions,” they add.
As the member for René-Lévesque, Martin Ouellet, he finds it equally “inconceivable” that the minister Bonnardel the absence of a replacement vessel. “It was, however, the Camille-Marcoux (the predecessor of the F.-A.-Gauthier) and we sold it for the metal to $ 2.7 million. What is it that crowded as it to dismantle it?” he asked.
“Other seriously questioning in this folder. What a bad time to do the maintenance of the boat”, says the parliamentary leader of the Parti québécois. In fact, it was during the technical stop of the ferry, which took place on 17 and 18 December, that the problems of propulsion have been discovered. Mr. Ouellet also recalls that the boat has already suffered for 800 000 $ of repairs and alterations in 2017, two years after its purchase at a cost of $175 million.
The LNG, a bad decision
The mp also believes that the UTQ has erred in requiring that the F.-A.-Gauthier is powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), a technology not yet proven. “The LNG, it was a bad decision. We can’t do tests on a connection too sensitive. This boat is not reliable. It is sure that it does not pollute, it does not move!” he roared.
And as if that was not enough evil in this folder, the plane chartered by the STQ to transport passengers between Mont-Joli and Baie-Comeau, during the absence of the F.-A.-Gauthier was also known to misfire a bit before noon. A new device was to be made available at the end of the day.
READ ALSO : The ferry F.-A.-Gauthier is still out of service
AIR LINKS ADDED
The intervention of the government of Quebec has allowed for the addition of air links between the airports in Mont Joli and Baie-Comeau, and this, with four departures per day in each direction.
At a press conference Friday morning in Montreal, the minister of Transport, François Bonnardel said that the flights will be aboard aircraft Dash-8 of about 50 seats. Other routes should be added to Saturday between Sept-Îles and Matane at the request of the mayor of Sept-Îles, according to what was stated by the minister.
Mr. Bonnardel has recognized, however, that this is not ideal for the hundreds of families who had to move with their vehicle filled with luggage and gifts for the Holiday season.
These measures were necessary in this period of large-scale movements, especially as the trip is about 400 km by going up to the ferry between Saint-Siméon and Rivière-du-Loup. Only by land, the detour is of 820 km through Québec to be able to move from one bank to the other.
For its part, the Société des traversiers du Québec (STQ) will add additional departures to the traverse Rivière-du-Loup/Saint-Simeon, 23, 26 and 30 December 2018, as well as January 2, 2019 thanks to the collaboration of a private partner.
However, François Bonnardel did not hide his irritation in the face of the STQ, which had no plan B to deal with such a situation. The minister has said, find it unacceptable that the network of the Société des traversiers du Québec has no vessel available to replace a ferry that breaks. Mr. Bonnardel has pointed out that the STQ would have been able to buy a boat used during the past year, but has not done so. He rejected the blame on the previous liberal government for this decision.
He has indicated that he will take care of this folder in 2019.
The NM F.-A.-Gauthier, which connects Matane-Baie-Comeau-Godbout, however, is a ship recent. It was put into service in the summer of 2015. According to the minister Bonnardel, it is a unique boat of its kind which explains the difficulty to find spare parts quickly.