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‘We were left with no other choice’: Province cancels Gallipoli refit with Clarenville Shipyard

The Gallipoli being towed at Burry’s Shipyard earlier this year. Paul Tilley photo.
The Gallipoli being towed at Burry’s Shipyard earlier this year. Paul Tilley photo. - File image

CLARENVILLE, N.L. — The MV Gallipoli is leaving Clarenville, but not in the way many expected.

The province has cancelled the contract with Burry’s Shipyard for repairs to the vessel.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Department of Transportation and Works said the cancellation of the contract was “due to uncertainty regarding the repairs and certification of the shipyard’s rail slipway and the need to get the MV Gallipoli back into service as soon as possible.”

This past February, the Gallipoli was in the process of being moved back into the water when the shipyard’s slipway lift — the cradle holding the boat into position to go back into the water — stopped working properly. The lift needed repairs before the undocking could continue.

The department says the incident with the slipway “unfortunate.”

The ferry had been at Burry’s Shipyard since September, undergoing repairs.

The department says it is working with Burry’s to move the vessel to St. John’s for June 1.

“We have maintained a positive working relationship with the shipyard and we encourage them to bid on refits in the future,” said the official release.

The Packet reached out to Burry Group of Companies president Glen Burry several times over the past couple of days for comment. The company said it would be providing a statement, but up to end of day on Thursday, May 17, had not offered further comment.

The matter of the cancelled contract was brought to the attention of the House of Assembly on Tuesday, May 15.

Department of Transportation and Works minister Steve Crocker told the House, “The recertification of the lift itself became one of our biggest challenges.

In response to questions from PC David Brazil, leader of the Official Opposition, on Tuesday, Crocker said, “We actually went to the shipyard on three occasions and asked for timelines. On occasion number one we went back. On occasion number two, when the timeline came in I asked for an independent assessment, which we received. That independent assessment informed us and we went back to the shipyard and asked for a third timeline. The same thing again, Mr. Speaker, my senior officials told me the timelines weren't doable. So, again, I asked for an independent assessment of that timeline, which we received and which informed our decision.”

He added the Burry Group of Companies was disappointed by the decision.

Now, the Gallipoli will be heading to Newdock in St. John’s where it will be assessed for damages that may have occurred during the incident in February. There’s also still work left to be done from the original refit contract, according to the minister.

Local MHA upset

Terra Nova MHA Colin Holloway told media after the House of Assembly session on Tuesday he feels the contract should have stayed in the district, saying Burry’s had been working on the boat since about September.

“They were making progress, at this point about 50 percent of the scope of work had been completed,” said Holloway. “There was a mechanical failure of the slipway, so that caused a stall in the project.”

The MHA expressed concern that the cancellation of the contract could impact workers at the shipyard.

“There’s upwards of 150 people who are employed at the shipyard. To take that project out of Clarenville right now where the economy is struggling — in Clarenville, not only at Burry’s Shipyard — certainly there’s going to be a big blow to that district and that part of the province,” Holloway said.

During the House of Assembly session, Crocker was asked about Holloway’s comments about the work staying in the region. Crocker says he understands the concerns.

“I’m an MHA. We’re all MHAs and every single one of us do what we can and lobby and work on behalf of our constituent. I would do that same thing as an MHA,” he said.

“The reality here is, we took an almost three-month timeline to make this decision. We wanted to make sure if there’s any way we could get where we need to be for getting the vessel back into service in a period of time that allows us to have a full complement of ships.

“Unfortunately, when the independent assessment came back, we were left with no other choice.”

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