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Launch of expanded ferry service for Tancook Islands now expected late next year

The William G Ernst is tied up after engine trouble in 2014. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC - image credit)
The William G Ernst is tied up after engine trouble in 2014. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC - image credit)

The launch of an expanded service on a new, larger ferry to the Tancook Islands won't begin until the completion of a new dock and facilities in Blandford, N.S., expected in the fall of 2024.

The new ferry, currently under construction at the A.F. Theriault and Son shipyard in Meteghan River, is expected to be ready earlier that summer. It won't be put into service until its new mainland home is ready.

Nova Scotia Public Works Minister Kim Masland said Thursday the project is well on its way to completion, acknowledging some snags along the way.

"We know this is very important to the residents that live there and to the visitors, and we're working through this project and I'm really excited to see the end."

Nova Scotia Government/EYE Marine
Nova Scotia Government/EYE Marine

When the ferry was announced in November 2020, the Liberal government of the day anticipated completion in 2022.

The province awarded the $10.6-million shipbuilding tender for the 53-metre vessel in February 2021 but, according to the province, the yard encountered delays when the pandemic created shortages in staffing and materials.

The site originally chosen for the new Blandford dock also needed to be changed because construction could damage or destroy nearby eel grass.

"We're working very closely with DFO and looking forward to advancing this project, as we have continued to do," said Masland.

Nova Scotia Government/EYE Marine
Nova Scotia Government/EYE Marine

Docks on both Big Tancook Island and Little Tancook Island need to be rebuilt to accommodate a larger vessel.

Masland said the focus would be on the Big Tancook wharf first.

"We'll start with that ferry service to the Blandford-Big Tancook wharf," said Masland. "We'll look at some type of … way of shuttling others from the Little Tancook wharf."

She said the completion of the Little Tancook wharf is expected in 2025.

The shift from the current mainland port in Chester to Blandford, although not universally popular, will cut the sailing time from roughly 50 minutes to a half hour.

Replacing the William G Ernst with a larger and more powerful vessel will also allow the province to double or triple the number of crossings. Service is currently offered four times a day.

The new ferry will also be able to carry larger trucks, making it easier to deliver heating oil, building materials and other larger items.

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