Ferry rate hikes will affect more than just ferry users

Gary
Gary Kean
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Peter Antle figures the four per cent rate hikes announced by Marine Atlantic will have a bigger impact on the average Newfoundlander than it will on the flow of tourism traffic.

Atlantic Vision

The manager of the Greenwood Inn and Suites said the increase in rates for both commercial and passenger traffic, set to take effect April 1, is basically par for doing business these days.

“We’re all in that same game of having that balance of what are our business costs and the overall affordability for making it work,” said Antle. “We have to manage that every year.”

Marine Atlantic is no different, said Antle, as long as its customers are seeing more value for the increased cost of using the services. Antle noted that Marine Atlantic has been investing in improvements to its terminals in both Port aux Basques and North Sydney, and has introduced new vessels to its fleet.

“We have also seen improved overall communication with us as industry operators and with customers in terms of booking in advance,” said Antle. “They are still in the processs of doing those things right now.”

He doesn’t think a four per cent increase will cost the province tourists.

“Is it a concern? It’s always a concern when there are increases,” he said. “But, at the end of the day, if these costs are going towards better, reliable service and better customer service, I think people will see value in it ... I’d be more concerned for the off-island cost of goods, as opposed to the tourism impact.

Gord Peddle owns Atlantica Diversified Transportation Systems. Based out of Mount Pearl, it also has trucking operations staged from Clarenville, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

The 225 tractor trailers in his fleet make between 3,500 and 4,000 crossings on the Gulf ferry every year.

The latest price hike does not sit well with Peddle because he knows the trucking industry will pay it, then pass it on to their customers who will ultimately pass it on to the consumers of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Notwithstanding the investments the federal government is making into our service by improving the facilities and the supply of a couple of vessels, the burden of the operating cost increases seems to be put back on the Newfoundland consumer more and more,” said Peddle. “If that’s the way it’s supposed to be, then I guess they are accomplishing that.”

He said the increase cannot be absorbed by the trucking industry or its customers and should not be more than the rate of inflation.

“I could accept them coming up with a two per cent increase, or whatever the (consumer price index) is, but four per cent is outlandish,” said Peddle. “Before I see a four per cent increase, I would like to see some accountability to their cost-cutting measures.”

Marine Atlantic said the hikes were necessary because the Crown corporation continues “to be impacted by rising costs of materials, supplies and labour.”

- The Western Star

Organizations: Marine Atlantic, Greenwood Inn

Geographic location: Port aux Basques, North Sydney, Newfoundland and Labrador Mount Pearl Clarenville Nova Scotia New Brunswick Western Star

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