We recognize that the past couple of weeks have been challenging from a weather perspective for our customers and are very aware of the inconvenience that this has caused. We know that this is a very busy time of year as more people and goods are being transported on our service in anticipation of the holiday season.
During the week of November 12, several severe weather systems impacted our schedule and created a backlog of traffic. The positive news is that we recovered from these delays fairly quickly once the weather improved, having transported over 1000 commercial trucks over a period of a couple of days. The unfortunate news is that we are anticipating additional weather systems in the days ahead and will likely experience similar weather patterns in the weeks to come.
Besides working through weather challenges, Marine Atlantic currently has extensive work happening on one of our docks in North Sydney, resulting in this dock being out of service and unavailable for use. These necessary upgrades will take some time to complete. The fall/winter timeframe was chosen to avoid impacting traffic during our busy summer travel season. We anticipate the dock being reopened by March 31, 2019; however, having only one dock available in North Sydney over the next few months means we can only dock, load and offload one vessel at a time. With limited docking facilities available in North Sydney, it has been necessary for our commercial vessel, the MV Leif Ericson, to remain in port in Port aux Basques to ride out significant weather events. With high winds and sea states experienced in these types of weather situations, keeping the vessel at anchor outside port has not been an option.
As a pilot project with the Port of Sydney, Nova Scotia, we have an agreement in place to dock the MV Leif Ericson in Sydney through December 21, 2018, whenever extended weather events are forecasted. Bringing the MV Leif Ericson into service from Sydney following a weather delay would take approximately one hour. Bringing this vessel into service from Port aux Basques to reach North Sydney would take approximately 8 hours. Using the Port of Sydney will significantly reduce the amount of time customers and freight would have to wait in North Sydney to travel to Newfoundland once sailings resume.
During this period, the Port of Sydney will be used on a case by case basis depending on the expected impact of each weather event and availability of the Port.
Today will be our first trial of this new approach as there is the potential of weather disruptions over the next couple of days. By taking this action, the vessel will be able to move to our North Sydney terminal to load customers and freight immediately following the departure of our other vessels.
We know and appreciate that weather-related disruptions to our sailing schedule have been very frustrating for everyone. We hope that taking this proactive measure to move traffic more quickly will better meet our customers’ business needs. We thank everyone for their patience and understanding as we deal with these weather events and dock challenges, and commit to doing everything possible to get all customers and their product to their destinations in a timely and safe manner.