At least one freight company has found its own way to provide service to the islands since the loss of the Queen of the North.
More Marine, a Richmond-based company, runs a weekly barge from the Lower Mainland with goods destined for the islands. Prior to the sinking, its barges landed in Kitimat, where goods were transferred to land transport and delivered to the islands on the ferry.
More Marine sales representative Mark Kelly said the company, which brings the islands’ alcohol supply along with other goods, including the recent load of sod for the Queen Charlotte high school soccer field, has been operating this way for at least four years.
But when BC Ferries finally got its barge system up and running following the tragedy, the corporation only offered More Marine one trailer position on board, although the company required six.
“We couldn’t rely on getting all of our product to the Charlottes,” said Mr. Kelly.
So the owner of the freight company decided to bring its own barge and tug over from Kitimat. At first the company offered its barges to BC Ferries as a charter service, but when the corporation turned down the offer, company officers decided their customers had to come first.
More Marine is not receiving a subsidy of any kind from BC Ferries, “despite the significant negative financial implications of running a barge over back solely for our own volume demand,” Mr. Kelly wrote in a letter addressed to BC Ferries president David Hahn.
“We’re trying to cover costs. It’s an expensive run to make,” Mr. Kelly told the Observer.
The service will run throughout the summer on a weekly schedule taking commercial trailers and passenger vehicles from Queen Charlotte to Kitimat. Despite the distance between Prince Rupert and Kitimat, Mr. Kelly said the crews have already brought over seven vehicles and taken three vehicles off the islands. (The BC Ferries-chartered barge is not taking private vehicles.)
Mr. Kelly said More Marine transports new vehicles weekly to dealerships in Terrace and Kitimat and isn’t as concerned about liability as BC Ferries, which received damage claims the last time private vehicles were transported by barge.
“We position them so they are protected,” he said.
The company doesn’t have an unloading facility in Prince Rupert, nor does the extra travel fit into its freight schedule.
Mr. Kelly thinks BC Ferries could easily provide a shuttle service between Prince Rupert and Kitimat for those customers whose vehicles are taken on the barge.
“The customer is being inconvenienced and they haven’t found a way to take care of them,” he said.
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