The F.-A.-Gauthier (left) is paralyzed at the wharf in Matane due to abnormalities to its electric motors. The Saaremaa 1 (right) has taken over the service crosses on Tuesday, after four days of inactivity.
December 18, 2019 18h53
Updated at 22h09
Service Matane North Shore: a year without ferry service reliable
MATANE — For a year, the population of Matane and the North Shore has the feeling of living in The groundhog day. After the purchase of the Apollo, discarded after 17 days of navigation, the Société des traversiers du Québec (STQ) has made the acquisition of the Saaremaa 1 to compensate for the absence of the ferry, F.-A.-Gauthier, detained since December 17, 2018. But the ship succession is responding hardly to the needs, especially since the last month.
Evidence of this is the ferry open deck, built in Norway in 2010, has resumed its regular service on Tuesday, after four days of inactivity due to climatic conditions, so that the river is not yet frozen. “November and December are a little more hard, recognizes the president and ceo of STQ, Stéphane Lafaut. If I had wanted to buy a ship that runs through all the days, I would have bought a Gauthier. Is what we could afford, in Quebec, buy another Gauthier, who was going to stay there for 11 months of the year because it would not have been employable elsewhere? When we bought the Saaremaa, it was necessary to look at its settings. It is a ship of succession that we should be able to use elsewhere. It has not the same size as the Gauthier […]. In the summer, 95 % of the time, less extreme conditions, there is a tie.”
The boss of the STQ does not support the negative criticism he hears on the Saaremaa 1. “We must be careful not to convey messages that might create doubt among the population, he warns. You may recall that he has crossed the Atlantic by himself! You can bring anyone on the river with the Saaremaa. In the end, it is the safety of the passengers that we look at. As the captain, with his crew, judge that it is safe to make the crossing, he will do it.”
Last week, after more than 11 months in dry dock, the F.-A.-Gauthier has left Lévis to its home port of Matane, a Friday 13. A new problem that prevents it from take to the sea ever since. According to the spokesperson of the STQ, specialists from Germany were on the move Wednesday in order to get to Matane, trying to identify the detected abnormalities to the electric motors brand General Electric. “For the moment, the date [of return of the service of the ship] is indeterminate,” says Alexandre Lavoie.
If the repairs were not as eager once again to bring the ship afloat, Mr. Lafaut promises that the air link will be extended between the airports in Mont-Joli, Baie-Comeau and Sept-Îles. While the flights were to resume Saturday, the STQ has decided to restore the service earlier. Planes are shuttling back and forth since Wednesday. “We had requests from our customers […], and in particular workers who remain on the South Shore […], says M Lavoie. For the people, their patience has been tested in recent weeks with the Saaremaa. It’s understandable to have less trust in the service.” The carrier hopes to double the number of daily departures from 21 December to 6 January.