There are more questions than answers about what will happen when the ferry running between Souris, P.E.I., and Quebec's Magdalen Islands is out of commission for several weeks this coming spring.
According to Transport Canada, the 10-year-old MV Madeleine II will be in dry dock for an estimated six to eight weeks for routine maintenance and inspections.
That has the federal department exploring options — one of which is to redeploy another ferry the federal government owns, the MV Fundy Rose, that currently runs between Digby, N.S., and Saint John, N.B.
Transport Canada hasn't said how moving that boat to Souris would affect the service between Digby and Saint John, and that has some users worried.
Brian Reynolds owns B. Reynolds Trucking in Port La Tour, N.S. He uses the Digby ferry to ship seafood through New Brunswick to New England, and said losing the service would increase his shipping costs.
"That would make a very difficult situation for us," he said. "It would hurt us quite bad."
Vacancier slated for disposal
There is also a ferry currently docked in Georgetown, P.E.I. The Vacancier is owned by Coopérative de Transport Maritime et Aérien (CTMA), the company that operates the Souris-Magdalen Islands service, and it has been used to fill in on that route in the past.
When CBC News asked whether the 50-year-old Vacancier is a potential option for the spring of 2024, the Quebec ferry company replied in an email: "The CTMA is currently in the process of disposing of it. It is therefore no longer available as a replacement vessel."
The email added: "Regarding the Madeleine II ferry, whether it is its maintenance, its replacement or any project related to the vessel, you must refer to Transport Canada as it is the responsibility of the federal government."
The 50-year-old Vacancier, shown docked in Georgetown, has been used to fill in on the route between Souris and the Magdalen Islands in the past. (Steve Bruce/CBC)
It's also not clear what will happen if issues are discovered with the MV Madeleine II while it's in dry dock, leading it to be out of commission for longer than expected.
A spokesperson for Transport Canada said in an email that the department understands any interruption to ferry services in the region leads to significant challenges for local communities.
"All impacts will be carefully considered before a decision is made," the email said.
New ferry for route delayed
The federal government is paying to have a Quebec shipyard build a new boat for the Souris-Magdalen Islands run, as well as a new vessel to replace MV Holiday Island on the route between Wood Islands, P.E.I., and Caribou, N.S.
The government originally said the new ferry for the Magdalens route would be completed in 2026. Now, according to its website, that's been delayed to 2029.
An engine fire in July of 2022 took MV Holiday Island off the ferry run between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. The vessel has since been scrapped. (Shane Hennessey/CBC)
"During the preliminary stages of negotiations and project preparation with Chantier Davie Canada Inc., the delivery date of the first permanent replacement vessel was estimated to be in 2027," Public Services and Procurement Canada said in an email to CBC News Thursday.
"After establishing a project management office, initiating various engineering studies to support design and construction of the new vessels, it is now estimated that the first new permanent replacement ferry being designed and constructed by Chantier Davie Canada Inc. is expected to be delivered in late 2028. Exact timelines will be reviewed as the design efforts progress."
The email did not specify which of the two routes would be getting the first new vessel.