On July 22, 2022 one of the most trusted ferries in any Canadian fleet suffered a fire that would seal its’ fate. The MV Holiday Island was a trusted ship that ferried passengers during the summer months between Cape Tormentine New Brunswick and Borden Prince Edward Island until the opening of Confederation Bridge in 1997. Following the bridge opening, the Holiday Island moved to the Wood Islands to Caribou Nova Scotia route.
For her entire length of service, the Holiday Island proved to be a reliable carrier on the Northumberland Strait. Over the course of the last decade plus, many were starting to talk that it might be time to sell the vessel. One of the common questions I remember hearing was would it not be efficient to have a new ferry that could prove more fuel efficient? The vessel is not meant to withstand the weathering of a cross-ocean voyage due to its’ open vehicle decks and bow design. So it would be unlikely sold for scrap to an overseas buyer that would end up taking it to a place like Alang. The Holiday Island could have been sold to a small route with sale proceeds going towards purchase of a newer vessel. One of Canada’s many small shipyards not owned by the Irving companies could have laid the foundation for a new ferry. The other ship on the PEI Ferry route MV Confederation was built and completed in Pictou during the 1990’s. So why was another ship not started in the same yard? We know the answer is cost. The fate of the MV Abegweit was too hurriedly rushed. History now has proven that amazing ship was sold off too-soon, meeting an early scrapping at Alang, India. With some upgrading, it could have breathed some life into the Nova Scotia – PEI crossing.
Given the amount of repair work that went into the Holiday Island in 2016, many assumed the vessel was going to be in for the long haul. It was well past its’ working life, and pushed too far despite the repairs. The July 22, 2022 fire is sadly going to be one of the final chapters in this ship’s storied history.
I am of the view that many elected officials have begun to treat the ferry service as a novelty. I understand that things are costing more. Fuel is off the charts, as are most things. The focus has been more about industry being able to have access versus people. But people ARE one of the industries. Not every passenger is a tourist or tradesperson. Some depend on the ferry service to get to family and friends living closer to the east end of Prince Edward Island. Those are the ferry passengers getting lost in the discussion. Those are the people I remember the most when travelling on the Holiday Island. The people who were travelling to connect with those closest to them.