Marine Atlantic

Marine Atlantic Inc. (French: Marine Atlantique) is an independent Canadian federal Crown corporation which is mandated to operate ferry services between the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.

Marine Atlantic
Crown corporation
FoundedMoncton, New Brunswick (1986)
HeadquartersSt. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Key people
Paul Griffin, President & CEO
ProductsFerry service
Revenue$112.62 million CAD in 2017-2018[1]

Marine Atlantic's corporate headquarters are in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Current operations

Marine Atlantic operates ferries across the Cabot Strait on two routes:

The 96-nautical-mile (178 km) Port aux Basques route is operated year-round. This service was assumed by Canadian National Railway in 1949 from the Newfoundland Railway when the Dominion of Newfoundland entered into Canadian Confederation.

The 280-nautical-mile (520 km) Argentia route is operated seasonally during the summer (June–September). This service was established by CNR in 1967.


Marine Atlantic operates four Ro-Pax (roll-on, roll-off, passenger) vessels:

The MV Leif Ericson, purchased in 2001, is significantly smaller and a less-capacity ferry than other vessels in the fleet. This ferry's dimensions are 18,500 registered tons and 157 metres long, carrying 500 passengers, and 250 automobile-equivalent vehicles.

MV Atlantic Vision was originally chartered from the Estonia-based Tallink for five years starting in October 2008;[2][3] in February 2015, Marine Atlantic announced that the lease on the vessel had been renewed until November 2017 for a cost of C$40 million.[4] At 30,285 GT, Atlantic Vision is the largest ship in Marine Atlantic fleet[5] and the largest ferry in North America.

On May 21, 2010, Marine Atlantic announced that the company had agreed to charter two vessels from the Stena Line to replace the aging "Gulfspan" class vessels Caribou and Joseph and Clara Smallwood. The new vessels, built in 2006 and 2007, boosted capacity and lowered operating costs, as they consumed less fuel.[6] On September 29, 2010, Marine Atlantic announced the names of the new vessels: MV Blue Puttees and MV Highlanders.[7] Blue Puttees went into service March 2011, with Highlanders following in April 2011. In May 2015, Marine Atlantic announced that it had purchased both vessels from Stena for C$100 million each.[8]

History of Newfoundland ferry services

From 1851, when the Colony of Newfoundland took over the operation of the post office, the government contracted for packet boats. By 1860 subsidized schooners were operating on the northeast coast from Greenspond to New Perlican, and along the south coast from Placentia to Channel-Port aux Basques. The first steam-packet, Lady LeMarchant, operated on Conception Bay after 1852.[9]

In 1860 the government decided to subsidize a regularly scheduled steamer service. The first vessel chartered to the service was the Victoria in 1862. In 1863 Ariel took over, alternating a northern run to Twillingate (later extended to Tilt Cove) with a southern run to LaPoile. In 1871 Grieve and Co. replaced Ariel with Leopard and Tiger, inaugurating northern and southern runs based at St. John's, to Battle Harbour in the north, and to Halifax in the south. After 1877 the two-steamer coastal service continued with Bowring Brothers' Curlew and Plover, while Lady Glover ran in Conception Bay. In 1888 Harvey & Co. took over the service, with Conscript (on the northern service) and Volunteer. The packet Hercules, then later Alert, began running in Placentia Bay, while Favourite ran in Trinity Bay and Lady Glover in Notre Dame Bay. Once the railway reached Harbour Grace there was no need for a steam-packet on Conception Bay. After Volunteer was lost in 1891, Harvey's commissioned Grand Lake and renamed Conscript the Virginia Lake. Meanwhile, Farquhar's Harlaw served western Newfoundland, out of Halifax.

With its completion of the Newfoundland Railway in 1898 and following its agreement with the Newfoundland Government, the Reid Newfoundland Company under Robert G. Reid began operating coastal and ferry services for the island and Labrador, to be integrated with the railway. By 1900 they comprised a fleet of eight vessels known as the "Alphabet Fleet." Each vessel in the Alphabet Fleet was built in Scotland and given the name of a Scottish location by the Reids whose family had come from there.

In 1904, in response to complaints about the Reid service, the Newfoundland government subsidized the use of two outside vessels for the coastal service, the Portia and Prospero, and in 1912, set up a similar arrangement for use of the Sagona and Fogota.[10]

In 1923, under the Railway Settlement Act, the government took over the island's railway. They purchased the Alphabet Fleet from the Reids and placed it under the railway's control. In 1924, the Portia, Prospero and Sagona were purchased outright and another vessel the Malakoff was brought into service. In 1925, the Caribou began its service on the Gulf run.

The Newfoundland Royal Commission, formed in 1933 by the government of Great Britain to examine the future of Newfoundland in light of its then financial difficulties, examined the operation of ferries as part of its investigation. It recommended that an expert inquiry be held into the ferry services with a view particularly to the prevention of overlapping, more efficient and economical working and the readjustment of freight rates on a carefully planned and scientific basis.[11]

After Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949, the Newfoundland Railway and its ferry services became part of the Canadian National Railway.

In 1977, CN's marine operations in Atlantic Canada were passed to a subsidiary, CN Marine.

Formation of Marine Atlantic

Marine Atlantic was established in 1986 to take over the provision of ferry services in Atlantic Canada which had previously been operated by CN Marine, a subsidiary of Canadian National Railway. Its headquarters were in Moncton, New Brunswick.

Extensive budget cuts by the Government of Canada during the latter part of the 1990s led to a drastic downsizing of Marine Atlantic's operations, precipitated by the 1997 opening of the Confederation Bridge which replaced Marine Atlantic's most heavily used ferry service, the constitutionally-mandated ferry to Prince Edward Island.

Later in 1997, the company transferred the operation of its Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine ferry services between Saint John, New Brunswick-Digby, Nova Scotia and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia-Bar Harbor, Maine to the private-sector company Bay Ferries Limited, a subsidiary of Northumberland Ferries Limited.

That year also saw Marine Atlantic remove itself from the provision of coastal ferry services in Newfoundland and Labrador with the transfer of operations to the provincial government at the end of the 1997 shipping season. This agreement was reached between the federal and provincial governments in exchange for federal funding to extend regional roads such as the Trans-Labrador Highway to service coastal communities. These coastal ferry services had been initiated by the Newfoundland Railway and were assumed by Canadian National Railways, following the province's entry into Confederation in 1949, although they were not constitutionally mandated. Also in 1997 Marine Atlantic sold off its Newfoundland Dockyard, located in St. John's, Newfoundland to a private operator. The dockyard built in the 1880s was at one point in time owned by the Reid Newfoundland Company, then in 1923 was taken over by the Newfoundland Railway company. when Newfoundland joined Canada ownership passed to Canadian National.

In 1998, the company moved its headquarters from Moncton to St. John's, after briefly considering North Sydney and Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and Labrador.

In late 2004, the federal government announced the appointment of a three-member committee tasked with examining future operations of Marine Atlantic. One of the options that was reportedly considered included privatization, however the subsequent report called for improved service through fleet renewal, lower fares, increased frequency of crossings, and moving the headquarters to Port aux Basques.

In 2010, Marine Atlantic announced that the Canadian government was planning to invest around $900 million in the ferry operations. Two ferries, the MV Caribou and MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood, were replaced by newer ships initially chartered from Stena Line. On land, all three terminals at Marine Atlantic's ports received extensive renovations, including the construction of a new terminal building at the North Sydney facility.[6][12]

Historical fleet

Marine Atlantic inherited numerous vessels from CN Marine in 1986, all of which have since been removed from service. Many of these vessels have gone through numerous ownership changes and, given their advanced age, most have been scrapped.

Cabot Strait
Gulf of Maine and Bay of Fundy
Labrador coast
Newfoundland south coast
  • MV Marine Runner
  • MV Marine Courier
  • MV Marine Sprinter
  • MV Taverner
  • MV Petite Forte (sistership to MV Hopedale)
  • MV Hopedale (caught fire and scuttled, 1984)
Northumberland Strait
For further information on ferries which operated on Northumberland Strait prior to Marine Atlantic's service (1986-1997), see Confederation Bridge.

Former routes

From its inception in 1986 until 1997, Marine Atlantic operated the following routes:

Newfoundland Dockyard

Marine Atlantic operated the Newfoundland Dockyard, a dry dock located in St. John's from 1986 until its sale in 1997. This facility had been established by the Newfoundland Railway to build and repair its coastal ferries. In 1949 it was transferred to Canadian National Railways after that company assumed ownership of the Newfoundland Railway when the country entered Confederation. Its responsibility was transferred to the railway's subsidiary CN Marine in 1977 and then to Marine Atlantic in 1986. Upon its privatization in 1997, it was renamed NewDock-St. John's Dockyard Company.

See also


  1. "Annual Report 2017- 2018" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-03-10.
  2. "Charter of MS Superfast IX". Tallink press release. Tallink. 2008-04-25. Archived from the original on 2008-05-06. Retrieved 2008-04-02.
  3. "Atlantic Vision chosen as ship's new name". The Western Star. 2008-06-21. Retrieved 2008-06-22.
  4. "Marine Atlantic renews lease for MV Atlantic Vision". CBC News. 2015-02-03. Retrieved 2015-05-26.
  5. "Our Ship is coming and she's a beauty". Marine Atlantic. Archived from the original on 2008-12-07. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
  6. "Government of Canada invests in TWO ferries for Marine Atlantic Inc." Archived 2010-05-25 at the Wayback Machine. May 21, 2010. Retrieved June 26, 2010.
  7. "New Marine Atlantic Ferries Honour Military Units". September 29, 2010. Retrieved October 1, 2010.
  8. "Marine Atlantic Purchases MV Blue Puttees, MV Highlanders". CBC News. 2015-05-26. Retrieved 2015-05-26.
  9. "Newfoundland Railway Steamers". Memorial University. 2015-03-14. Retrieved 2015-03-14.
  10. "Alphabet Fleet". Memorial University of Newfoundland. 2015-03-14. Retrieved 2015-03-14.
  11. "Newfoundland Royal Commission". Text of Royal Commission Report. 2015-03-14. Retrieved 2015-03-14.
  12. "GOVERNMENT OF CANADA INVESTS OVER HALF A BILLION DOLLARS IN THE REVITALIZATION OF MARINE ATLANTIC INC" (PDF). Marine Atlantic. 5 July 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 November 2010. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
  13. Thomas, Brodie (October 31, 2011). "Former ferries beached at Alang, India". The Gulf News. Port aux Basques, Newfoundland. Archived from the original on May 13, 2012. Retrieved 2013-02-24.
  14. "Ana: Ro-Ro/Passenger Ship". Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  15. "Erg: Ro-Ro/Passenger Ship". Retrieved 2015-06-02.
  16. "Corsica Marina Seconda: Ro-Ro/Passenger Ship". Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  17. "Sardinia Vera: Ro-Ro/Passenger Ship". Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  18. "Future of the Sir Robert Bond undecided". The Evening Telegram. 2014-04-23. Retrieved 2015-06-02.
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