Delay to N.S.-P.E.I. route comes at a cost, say businesses

The delay of the ferry connecting Nova Scotia and P.E.I. is raising concerns among some businesses in the eastern part of the Island.

On Friday, Northumberland Ferries announced it was delaying the start of service between Pictou, N.S., and Wood Islands, P.E.I., until at least June 1.

Officials with the ferry said the decision came after a consultation with both P.E.I. and Nova Scotia’s chief public health officers.

The season was originally scheduled to begin May 1 with new safety measures, including pre-screening passengers for symptoms of COVID-19 and reducing the number of vehicles allowed on each ferry crossing to allow for physical distancing.

Morley Annear, a trucking company based in Brudenell, P.E.I., uses the ferry to ship agricultural products like fertilizer and grains to Nova Scotia.

Extra time, extra cost

The Wood Islands Ferry Terminal is just over 26 kilometres from its head office, but for now drivers will have to travel more than 100 kilometres to access the Confederation Bridge. 

Scott Annear, co-owner of Morley Annear, says driving to the Confederation Bridge instead of the ferry will cost $250-$300 a load. (CBC News)

“The product will still get moved. It’s just going to take a little longer,” said co-owner Scott Annear.

All that extra travel time will also make it more expensive for the company to ship goods. 

“The closure of the ferry will cost people extra for moving the product further around,” he said.

“I usually figure about $250-$300 a load depending on where exactly we’re going.”

He said while he was disappointed to hear about the postponement, he understands safety needs to come first. 

‘Vital piece of infrastructure’

Morley Annear isn’t the only company that uses the ferry in the warmer months. The Eastern P.E.I. Chamber of Commerce said most companies in the area rely on the ferry.

“The Island needs the ferry,” said Russell Compton, president of the chamber. “Every Island business needs the ferry … it’s a vital piece of infrastructure that we just cannot afford to lose.”

He said the delay is “disappointing but it’s understandable.”

While Compton hopes the ferry will open soon, even just for commercial traffic — he said he understands that safety is paramount and hopes Islanders continue to take precautions against COVID-19 seriously. 

“Every business is at the mercy of how well we behave right now and we just hope people stay the blazes home,” he said. 

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.

  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government’s website.

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.

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