Length of crossings - why aren’t they all the same?

by Darrell Mercer

Great question….we hear it quite often, with the same ships running night and day, why does it take longer to make certain crossings versus others.

During the summer months, Marine Atlantic offers a daily service between Port aux Basques, N.L., and North Sydney, N.S. and a tri-weekly service between Argentia, N.L., and North Sydney, N.S. On average, it takes between 5 and 7 hours to travel between Port aux Basques and North Sydney (why the difference, we’ll answer that question in a moment). The Argentia to North Sydney crossing takes approximately 16 hours.

Argentia and Port aux Basques

First, let’s tackle the Argentia question, why does it take longer to sail to Argentia? The easy answer is geography; it’s a longer distance to sail. Our vessels have the ability to make the crossing quicker if necessary, but based on our sailing schedule, we try to make our arrival and departure times as convenient as possible for our customers. With our Argentia service for example, customers experience a mid-afternoon departure and arrive at breakfast time the next morning, having the opportunity to enjoy the vessel’s on board amenities and have a good night’s rest in between. This type of schedule provides optimum road travel opportunities for customers, while helping Marine Atlantic become more fuel efficient which is beneficial for the environment.

Day versus Night

So why is the afternoon crossing shorter and the overnight crossing longer between Port aux Basques and North Sydney? A longer crossing during the overnight hours provides customers with more time to rest. A late evening departure allows for a breakfast time arrival and optimum road travel opportunities. This works well for our customers and it also works well for our personnel. Our crews work on our vessels for a two-week period and are subject to federal regulations that mandate hours of rest periods which are usually achieved during the overnight hours. If you are looking for the quickest crossing time, a daytime crossing would likely be your preference. Not only would you leave late morning and arrive by supper time, you also have a great opportunity to see the many whales and dolphins who like to entertain our customers during the summer months.


A combination of distance, customer convenience, crew hours of rest and fuel efficiency are the reasons as to why all crossing times aren’t the same. In the end, we try to develop the best summer schedule possible for our customers, while balancing the needs of our fleet and crew.