Shipyard chosen for new Tancook ferry project


A well-established shipyard in Digby County will be paid $10.6 million to build the new vehicle and passenger ferry that will travel year round between Blandford and Little Tancook, and Big Tancook Island.

A.F. Theriault and Son, of Meteghan, was recently awarded the procurement by the province to construct a 53-metre vessel (including ramps) designed to carry at least 18 full size passenger cars stowed in three lanes of six automobiles, and a total complement of 99 people including passengers and crew.

The procurement indicates the shipyard will be responsible for dock and sea trials, and training personnel before the ferry is delivered.

The province's Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (TIR) previously said construction of the new ferry starts this winter and should be finished by the spring of 2022. Additional material attached to the request-for-proposals (RFP) suggests it could be May or June 2022 before the vessel is delivered.

The new ferry replaces the 40-year-old William G. Ernst, which can't accommodate vehicles in its navigation between Chester and the islands. The Chester arrival and departure spot shifts to Gates Fish Plant Road in Blandford, roughly 25 kilometres southeast of Chester, because the village's location can't handle a car ferry. TIR indicated the number of daily crossings will swell to about 11 from four. Ferry travel time gets cut in the process, to 30 minutes from 50.

The Tancook islands are home to about 200 people.

News of the new ferry was announced in November. The project is cost-shared between provincial and national governments.

"Supporting our rural communities has been an important aspect of my efforts since coming into public office," Hugh MacKay, the MLA representing the area, told LighthouseNOW in an email. "The planned 2022 introduction of the new ferry means that Tancook residents will soon enjoy speedier access to mainland services and emergency supports."

TIR previously said government will work with the successful contractor to have minimal disruptions in ferry travel during the period of transition to Blandford from Chester.

Harbourside Engineering Consultants, an Atlantic Canada-based leading firm in heavy civil infrastructure projects, was awarded a $1.46 million engineering services deal in relation to the ferry work.

The RFP indicated the company is tasked with geotechnical investigations, a dive study, environmental studies, permit applications, and new washroom and office building details concerning the Blandford site. The firm will also design for relocation of an osprey nest onsite to another pole on the property.

"A waterfront property has been purchased by the [province] at Blandford ... that offers several possibilities for placement of a new wharf and queuing facilities for vehicles," reads the tender document. Harbourside Engineering Consultants will design the positioning, mechanical, electrical, and lighting of a new Blandford wharf that will measure at least 75-metres in length.

As for the wharf site on Little Tancook Island, the province wants the consultant to continue similar work as it's doing in Blandford. The job also involves designing a partial or full demolition of the wharf if it can't be shortened.

The ballasted timber crib constructed wharf at Little Tancook "is planned for either encapsulation in a new self-supporting shell structure, or demolition and replacement on a similar footprint, with length tailored for the new ferry boat," reads the RFP.

Big Tancook Island will also be a focus of the company's work, similar to the other two locations. Additionally, the firm will design retaining walls "required along Reef Road for increasing width of road for staging/queuing areas for ferry traffic to avoid blocking access to the existing DFO small craft harbours Big Tancook wharf," reads the procurement.

The company is designing the orientation of a new wharf of at least 100-metres in length.

"A new breakwater wharf and vehicle queueing area is planned at Big Tancook to the north of the existing [DFO] small craft harbours wharf to accommodate the new vehicle ferry," the RFP goes on. "This will minimize interference with the existing operations and usage of the existing DFO small craft harbours wharf and will ensure uninterrupted ferry service to Big Tancook during the construction process."

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