It will cost slightly less to travel to and from Newfoundland by Marine Atlantic this summer – the result of the unexpected drop in the price of oil. The company announced on January 14 that it would pass the savings on to its customers by reducing its fuel surcharge by six percent– effective immediately. However, the reduction will be somewhat offset by a 2.6% increase in base vehicle and passenger rates as of April 1, reflecting the Crown corporation’s increased costs of doing business. Schedules up to March 3, 2015, were also announced, and bookings are now being accepted online and by telephone.
The fuel story is somewhat of a good news-bad news scenario. While the company and its customers are benefitting in the short term from the current lower prices, new environmental regulations will require a transition from cheaper blended fuel to 100% cleaner-burning marine diesel over the next three years. This is anticipated to result in higher fuel surcharges over time.
Don Barnes, vice-president of customer experience, says Marine Atlantic’s 2015-16 schedules recognize the popularity of the late evening departures from both North Sydney and Port aux Basques, as well as the overnight schedule on the seasonal Argentia run. The 2345 departures are scheduled every night of the year, with late morning departures also offered throughout the peak and shoulder seasons. Mr. Barnes notes that should the need arise at other times the second departure can be added on short notice to ensure traffic demands are met.
The Argentia service has continued to grow in popularity each year since the tri-weekly overnight schedule was introduced in 2011, and the charter of MV Atlantic Vision has now been extended until November 2017. Mr. Barnes said the 2014 season saw an average increase of 5.5% in ridership on each crossing. The Port aux Basques run, meanwhile, experienced a slight decline. He was optimistic about prospects for 2015, noting that the lower gasoline prices combined with the devalued Canadian dollar will make driving vacations in Canada a more attractive proposition this year. This should auger well for “rubber tire” traffic to Newfoundland.