Loyalist Township reps to meet with Minister of Transportation over ongoing ferry woes

The Frontenac II and the Amherst Islander II. Photos (L to R) via amherstislandca.com and Loyalist Township website.

After issuing an update regarding ferry service for Amherst Island earlier this week — and alluding to a coming update — Loyalist Township Deputy Mayor Nathan Townend has announced an upcoming meeting with Ontario’s Minister of Transportation.

In a notice issued on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024, Deputy Mayor Townend advised that representatives from Loyalist Township would be meeting with Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria, Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Brampton South. The meeting will take place at the upcoming Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference, set to take place next week, beginning Sunday, Jan. 21 and running through Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. Townend noted the meeting would take place “as part of Loyalist Township’s ongoing efforts to communicate information about the status of the Amherst Islander II.”

The meeting will specifically aim to address two concerns, Townend indicated.

“The first issue is to receive support to appoint Helm Management Services (Helm) as the project manager responsible for commissioning the Amherst Islander II. This request follows the Township’s delegation to former Minister Caroline Mulroney in August of 2023, where Loyalist identified the need for external support and project management to see everything through to completion. At that time, the ministry agreed to the Township’s request to hire an external consultant specializing in the marine sector (Helm) to assess and recommend a way forward. One of their key recommendations was to appoint a project manager,” the deputy mayor said in his address to constituents.

“Having recently completed an assessment of what is needed to commission the Amherst Islander II, Loyalist considers Helm is best placed to fulfill the role of project manager and get the Amherst Islander II in service at the earliest opportunity.”

The second issue concerns upcoming planned maintenance work to the Frontenac II — which would leave Amherst Island residents without transportation to and from the island since the Amherst Islander II has yet to come into service. Townend said the township will request “support for the ongoing work by Loyalist and MTO (Ministry of Transportation) to seek a deferral of the dry dock maintenance of the Frontenac II.”

“As many of you are aware the Frontenac II is due to undergo maintenance on April 7, 2024, as per Transport Canada regulations. Realistically speaking, it is important that an extension be sought so that, in the event the Amherst Islander II is not fully in service by that date, there is a backup plan in place for an auxiliary vessel. Furthermore, it is anticipated that the Frontenac II will still be required to ensure uninterrupted provision of ferry service to Amherst Island while training on the Amherst Islander II takes place,” said Townend.

“Ultimately, Loyalist wants to ensure that the commissioning of the Amherst Islander II happens safely and that our crews receive thorough training so that they can confidently operate the new vessel. Extending the operation of the Frontenac II will also minimise (sic) any potential service disruption for residents as the new vessel begins its career.”

The deputy mayor said he encourages Loyalist Township residents to contact him directly with any questions or concerns related to the ferry service update.

Kingstonist will follow up with Deputy Mayor Townend following the ROMA conference early next week for updates.

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