The federal government is paying $38.6 million to buy a Norwegian car and passenger ferry to replace MV Holiday Island, which was scrapped after an engine fire in the Northumberland Strait in 2022.
The government announced the price tag in a news release Thursday, three months after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed negotiations for MV Fanafjord during a visit to P.E.I.
“Following industry analysis, the Government of Canada determined that the purchase of the MV Fanafjord is the only solution that meets operational requirements and assures service continuity as an interim measure while two new ferries are being built,” the release said.
The vessel currently owned by Nye Fanafjord AS is expected to enter service during the 2024 operating season, which begins on May 1 and ends around Dec. 20.
Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay, whose P.E.I. riding includes the Northumberland Ferries dock at Wood Islands, was among those quoted in the news release.
“Two-way ferry service for communities in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. are vital for local communities and tourism growth,” the quote said in part. “Nova Scotians and Islanders count on us to provide critical infrastructure in a timely fashion.”
After the potential purchase was announced, the Eastern P.E.I. Chamber of Commerce said that while it welcomed the news of a stable second ferry joining MV Confederation on the route, it had recommended the purchase of Fanafjord six years ago.
The Holiday Island was 52 years old and already scheduled for replacement when passengers had to evacuate from the ship during a crossing in July 2022.
A Quebec ferry, MV Saaremaa I, was brought in for part of that tourism season as well as the 2023 season.
Before the Saaremaa arrived from dry dock this summer, however, the 30-year-old Confederation went out of service due to mechanical issues, leaving no ferries crossing the Northumberland Strait for weeks.
The 2019 federal budget announced a new ferry built by a Quebec shipyard would be ready in 2027, but that date has been pushed back.
“Design work for the new vessel is already underway, with delivery expected as early as 2028,” Thursday’s news release said.