Anchors up for Marine Atlantic as federal budget clears way for new ferry

Marine Atlantic

The new federal budget has squared away a few dollars which will find its way to Marine Atlantic in the form of a new ferry to connect Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. 

Although the plan is in the very early stages, the Crown corporation has already started consulting with Transport Canada. 

"We don't have all of the details at this stage. We know there is funding for the procurement of a new ferry, so that's very positive news," said Darrell Mercer, corporate communications officer for Marine Atlantic. 

"It's exciting. Whenever you bring a new piece of infrastructure, such as a new ferry into the service, it gives so many opportunities from a reliability, a safety, a customer amenity perspective."

Mercer said it's too early to tell what kind of budget will be needed for the new vessel.

As well, the timeframe of when the ship will enter the Marine Atlantic fleet is not certain.

However, Mercer could divulge that either the Atlantic Vision or the Leif Ericson will likely be replaced by the new ferry.

The Atlantic Vision isn't owned by Marine Atlantic, but is instead a chartered vessel. The Leif Ericson is an aging ship, Mercer said. 

Built in Norway in 1991, the ferry was renamed the Leif Ericson when it was acquired for Marine Atlantic's regular service 

Workplace diversity top of agenda

Meanwhile, Marine Atlantic has also launched an initiative to further diversify its workforce. 

Right now the makeup of its employees is 37 per cent women. As well, 4.8 per cent of workers are persons with disabilities, 3.7 per cent are Indigenous, and 1.5 per cent are visible minorities.

Marine Atlantic won an employment equity award from the Government of Canada in the fall of 2018 for workplace diversity, but Mercer added there's more the company can do.

Ted Dillon/CBC

Right now, Mercer said, the company is in the early stages of its diversity and inclusion strategy. Marine Atlantic has been meeting with Indigenous groups in Newfoundland as well as in Cape Breton, women's groups, the Association for New Canadians and disability resource centres to find out where they can improve their model and attract new employees.    

"There is a gap there. We need to get better again. We are in a male dominated industry for the most part, so trying to attract females, especially into the nontraditional roles, is very important to us," he said.

"The next report that we need to make to the Government of Canada will be in June. That will provide the numbers of how we're making out from an employment equity perspective. That will give us another measuring stick and hopefully we'll see some even further improvement from our last reporting phase."   

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