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Yarmouth-Maine Cat ferry engine issue cancels crossings, Bay Ferries seeking fix

['Vehicles are loaded onto the Cat ferry for a crossing to Portland, Maine.']
['Vehicles are loaded onto the Cat ferry for a crossing to Portland, Maine.']

YARMOUTH, N.S. –An issue that surfaced Monday with another of The Cat’s engines has led to cancellations of some ferry crossings between Maine and Nova Scotia as Bay Ferries works to immediately diagnosis and address the problem.

The Monday, July 31, crossing from Portland to Yarmouth that would have arrived in the evening, and the Tuesday, Aug. 1 morning crossing from Yarmouth to Portland have been cancelled.

UPDATE: On Tuesday, Bay Ferries posted on its website that the ferry would not be traveling from Portland to Yarmouth Tuesday afternoon. The company said Tuesday afternoon that a full technical crew consisting of personnel from both Bay Ferries and the CAT’s engine manufacturer (MTU) is on location in Portland, Maine. “They are undertaking a thorough assessment of the engine issue identified on July 31, with the goal of implementing a fast and effective repair program so The CAT can continue to provide the Maine-Nova Scotia high-speed ferry service to our customers,” reads the Aug. 1 media release. “We will provide future updates as soon as we can in the hours and days ahead.
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Bay Ferries has added additional departures of the Fundy Rose – sailing between Saint John, New Brunswick, and Digby, Nova Scotia – to help accommodate passengers who are looking to travel to and from Nova Scotia via ferry.

THREE OF FOUR ENGINES

As a result of a June 28 incident involving one of its four engines – the starboard outer main engine –The Cat has been operating on three of four engines. On Monday, July 31, the crew “detected an abnormality in one of the three operating engines,” says Bay Ferries.

“That engine was taken out of operation and the vessel continued to Portland. The vessel received tug assistance in docking, as she occasionally does on high wind days. With only two engines she is less maneuverable around the dock so the Captain obtained tug assistance,” said Bay Ferries president and CAO Mark MacDonald.

“We have technical crews en route to Portland who will be immediately diagnosing and addressing the problem,” he told the Tri-County Vanguard Monday evening. “Based on indications so far, we do not feel this is a similar problem to the serious issue encountered in June.”

The Cat ferry docking after arriving in Yarmouth following a crossing during the last week of July.

MacDonald said the company was holding off on any further public comment on this specific issue until it had more information, although he did say, “It is a separate issue with a different engine. But because the other engine is out of service, we have cancelled the (crossings) to attempt to resolve the problem immediately.”

EXTRA DEPARTURES

The Fundy Rose sails between Digby, N.S. and Saint John, N.B. and is operated by Bay Ferries.

The extra departures that have been added to the Fundy Rose schedule include a Tuesday, Aug. 1 departure from Saint John to Digby at 8:15 p.m. ADT and a Tuesday, Aug. 1 departure from Digby to Saint John at 10:45 p.m. ADT.As a precaution, we have added an extra crossing on Fundy Rose for (Tuesday) night out of Saint John. If the Tuesday (Portland-to-Yarmouth) Cat crossing ends up being cancelled, this will offer customers another option to get to southwest Nova by tomorrow night,” MacDonald said.

(As mentioned above, that Tuesday, Aug. 1 crossing from Portland to Yarmouth did get cancelled.)

Vehicles come off The Cat ferry after arriving in Yarmouth during a sailing the last week of July.

“Any disruption is not good,” he added. “We are hopeful we can deal with this issue quickly with minimum disruption.”

The public can check www.ferries.ca for the latest information on the sailing schedule, or call 1-888-868 9728.

Bay Ferries has already had to modify its summer sailing schedule to compensate for the fact it is only operating on three of four engines. It is also operating at a reduced speed –from 33-35 knots to 28-30 knots – which lengthens the crossing by about an hour to 6.5 hours.

Bay Ferries was optimistic about passenger numbers heading into this season, saying advance bookings were up five-fold over last season, which is the first season Bay Ferries operated the run since the 2009 season. Despite the issues, MacDonald said they continue to be “very optimistic.”

“We have already exceeded last year in total passenger sales,” he said. “We will work through this latest challenge as best we can. That is the nature of the business. Last year we had no mechanical downtime and were very cautious in undertaking extensive preventive engine maintenance during the off season.”

Bay Ferries has not released passenger numbers but the City of Portland has, saying the total number of passengers departing and arriving on the vessel from May 31 to June 30 was 7,677 passengers. The 2017 June Cat numbers fall in between the seasons of the Nova Star, which carried 6,768 passengers in 2014 and 8,530 passengers in 2015.

Last year The Cat only operated for two weeks in June, carrying 3,616 passengers.

Bay Ferries is chartering this vessel from the U.S. Navy. The vessel, renamed The Cat (the third Cat ferry to sail between Maine and Nova Scotia) is the 2007-built high-speed Alakai, which has been under the ownership of the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command.

The vessel’s starboard outer main engine can’t be repaired until after the sailing season. In a July 14 media release Bay Ferries said the engine’s manufacturers are standing behind their product and will absorb all repair costs when repairs take place.

Asked if any repair work needed now with this latest issue would be covered by warranty, MacDonald said Monday night it was “too early to make any comment” on that, given that they weren’t yet sure of what the issue was.

 

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