The paralysis of the Matane-Baie-Comeau-Godbout crossing plumbs the local economy

The interruption of the ferry service between Matane, Baie-Comeau and Godbout with the withdrawal of the Apollo is the last straw on the North Shore.

The ‘re business people of the Baie-Comeau region and its surroundings are tired of having to adapt and absorb the enormous costs and losses due to the lack of service, which occurs on a constant basis since broken the ferry F.-A.-Gauthier in mid-December.

Manicouagan Chamber of Commerce President Antonio Hortas shared the exasperation of the business community in an interview
“Many companies have already integrated a plan B into their business and are reorganizing quickly to mitigate. It costs more, it’s more trouble, but that’s how the STQ always came out because the people there are reorganizing, “he said.

“There has never been a sling like that in breakdowns or stops, but there is an awareness. People say to themselves: “Wait a minute, the North Shore companies have to adapt their operations to ship breakage?” In the weather we understand, but when it’s sunny and the boat breaks, it breaks down, it’s not the same anymore, “he declined.

Cancellations by tens

Hortas says costs and losses are multiplying over the weeks.

“We do not have a scientific accounting method for measuring losses, but what we know in fact is that the number of nights in hotels in Manicouagan has decreased. There are dozens of cancellations that have been recorded in the last few weeks, “he said, referring in particular to amateur snowmobile tourists who make the Gaspe-Cote-Nord loop.

“I was told in person that there are dozens and dozens of cancellations for two months. The season is quite catastrophic and this time, no one can tell us that it is lack of snow. The weather, the snow is amazing, but people can not enjoy it, “argued the businessman.

According to Environment Canada, more than 300 centimeters of snow has fallen in Baie-Comeau since the beginning of winter, and the region has not experienced any melting or thawing, some of the best conditions recorded during the winter. in recent years.

Costly detour

Beyond this decline in tourism, several distribution companies have to deal with a detour of nearly 1000 kilometers required to cross at the height of Quebec to continue their regular activities.

Antonio Hortas explains that per kilometer rates can vary from $ 1 to $ 1.50 depending on the carrier, the equipment being transported and whether the truck is empty or loaded, which represents an additional cost of $ 1,000 to $ 1,500, in addition to peripheral costs.

“The companies have to reorganize the schedules because the reception of goods is atypical because of this detour. They will pay the world extra time to accommodate and empty the trucks, which implies, in addition to the costs for overtime, waiting for the goods and an inability to serve customers in the usual time, “note Mr. Hortas.

An example of merchandise? “The milk from the Côte-Nord comes from the South Shore and normally passes by boat and there, we must go around,” says Antonio Hortas.

“A real slap”

According to the President of the Chamber of Commerce, “there is something much bigger than just transportation on this ferry.”

“What these stops of service highlight and that makes that there is a point of no return for the North Shore and the Manicouagan, it will be seen never again like simple tool of transport; it is an economic development tool that must be seen as such and an essential tool for the community and its development. ”

Antonio Hortas does not hesitate to reproach the media and the city for conveying “a vision a little miserabilist of the North Shore and the situation of citizens,” a sea of ​​prejudices that the region seeks to overcome.

“The Côte-Nord has been working for years to promote its territory and invite people to come not only on vacation, but to settle and the last 80 days are a real slap in this process. There are going to be accounts at some point. ”

The cross never stops sailing from rock to rock, the woes accumulating one behind the other. The Apollo was retired from service after a second collision in three weeks, this time at the Matane wharf.

Following its inspection, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) requested a Transport Canada inspection scheduled for Wednesday.

Already, however, the TSB team has not only recognized the impact shock damage, but has uncovered a long list of issues related to the age of the vessel and a lack of maintenance, in the first place, the sealing problems of the hull and the bridges.

The STQ has purchased the Apollo “temporarily” to replace its flagship, the F. A. Gauthier, a brand new Italian ferry bought at a cost of $ 175 million which accumulates problems since its purchase and which is in dry dock since January to rebuild the thrusters.

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