Local municipal leaders voice concerns Chi-Cheemaun not ready for season

File photo.

MANITOULIN—While Owen Sound Transportation Company (OSTC) officials have indicated they are optimistic that the M.S. Chi-Cheemaun will be ready to go for this year’s sailing season in May, members of the Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) voiced concerns and are calling on the company to provide or put a plan in place in the event the ship is not ready to start the season. As was reported last week, extensive damage was done to the ship’s  boiler room, the result of a ship fire that took place in the early morning hours of March 12. The Chi-Cheemaun is currently in Thunder Bay for its regular dry dock maintenance and upgrading.

“I think that a motion should be sent from all of us, asking if the company (OSTC) has a plan in place if the Chi-Cheemaun isn’t ready for the opening of the season,” suggested Gore Bay Mayor Dan Osborne.

“Based on the ferry numbers from 2019 (pre-COVID) they had 200,000 passengers that season,” said Mayor Osborne. “So, with those numbers, if the ferry is not running, it would be devastating to our economy.

Penny Palonen, a Burpee and Mills township councillor said, “the OSTC has said that the ship will be ready on time to open the season.”

“The fire took place in the boiler and electrical system,” said MMA chair Ken Noland, who also noted the OSTC says the ship will be up and running by the opening of the season (May 6).”

“I would like to know if the OSTC has a plan in place if the ferry is not running by then,” re-iterated Mr. Osborne.

“So, we need to send something to the OSTC, requesting if the ferry is going to be operational and if it isn’t, whether the company has a contingency plan in place,” said Mr. Noland.

“Yes, sending it from the MMA on behalf of the whole Island makes sense. If the ferry is not running, we will all lose out,” stated Mr. Osborne. 

The MMA passed a motion to send correspondence to the OSTC to ask about the status of repairs, and whether a plan is in place if the Chi-Cheemaun is not operational in time for the start of this season. The motion was moved by Mr. Osborne and seconded by Richard Stephens, Mayor of the municipality of Central Manitoulin.

As well, another issue was raised concerning the OSTC, by Assiginack councillor Hugh Moggy. “I see there is no Manitoulin Island representation on the OSTC ferry parent board,” he told the MMA members. “The Island used to have three members on the board at one time, now we have none that I know of and I would like to know the reason for this.” Mr. Moggy was for several years an OSTC board member

Mr. Noland noted that this concern could also be raised in the MMA letter being sent to OSTC.

As for the ferry’s condition and its status for the start of the season in May, Kaleena Sanford, manager of customer relations and media with OSTC, said assessment of the damage is continuing and the OSTC is hopeful to be able to provide an update this week.  “Until we receive all the information from our engineering crew, we will not be able to provide an update.” She had noted in last week’s Expositor that the OSTC is very optimistic that the ship will start sailing as scheduled May 6.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.