Existing Digby-Saint John run works best, says industry

YARMOUTH — A proposed new ferry service between Yarmouth and Portland, Maine, may be great for tourists and bus tours, but not for hauling lobster and fish to the huge wholesale market in Boston, say Nova Scotia fish processors.

“We have made our case clear that (the Digby-to-Saint John run) is the crossing that best suits our needs,” Marc Surette, executive director of the Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association, said Friday.

“That late-afternoon departure is excellent for the seafood industry,” he said of the Princess of Acadia’s scheduled run between the two ports.

“Once you’re off the (Digby ferry), your looking at somewhere between 8.5 to nine hours on a perfect day,” Surette said of the drive time to put big rigs from Nova Scotia into Boston in time for the morning opening of commercial seafood markets.

“This is how we do our business.”

And a new Yarmouth ferry will bring tourists and hopefully bus tours again to our province, said Surette.

But refrigerated seafood trucks must turn off the big refrigeration units perched high up on the front of their trailers when they board ship.

“If you’re looking at (Yarmouth) as a live-lobster haul, that’s nine hours where your lobster are not refrigerated,” said Surette.

Trucks heading across the Bay of Fundy aboard the Digby ferry often run their refrigerator units a little colder while they idle in the parking lot, waiting to board the ship. They then shut down but only for the three-hour crossing.

“For three hours, they can deal with it. For nine hours, it becomes an issue.”

Commercial traffic on the Digby ferry is up “considerably” this year over last, said Don Cormier, vice-president of operations for Bay Ferries.

Speaking this week in Digby, he said commercial vehicle use is up 17.1 per cent and fishing industry vehicles play a big part of that.

Trucks also bring cargo back into Nova Scotia from Boston, said Surette.

It includes lobster trap wire, rope, and lots of fish waste from the big fish-cutting houses in New Bedford, Gloucester and Boston. “We don’t do a lot of processing in Nova Scotia anymore,” he said.

The fish waste returns as mink feed, he said, arriving in big plastic-lined, waxed cardboard boxes.

In fact, truckers are making big money hauling tonnes of mink feed back to Nova Scotia.

“It’s mind-boggling how much of that comes (back to Nova Scotia). You can leave a truck in Boston for an extra day just to make sure that (the) truck is full so you can maximize your (return) load with a product that is far less perishable than fresh swordfish or live lobster,” Surette said about the mink feed.

“It has given the trucking companies a new way to go about doing their business. There’s a whole spectrum of products that can come back from Boston.”

Story by: Brian Medel

The Halifax Chronicle Herald

August 17, 2013