OWEN SOUND—Passenger and vehicle traffic is up on the MS Chi-Cheemaun so far this year (compared to last year’s figures), something that representatives of the Owen Sound Transportation Company (OSTC) are happy with and want to see continue in the future, hence a business plan being carried out by the OSTC this year.
“Up to the end of June, our passenger/traffic numbers have gone up 2.4 percent over the same period last year (2011),” stated Susan Schrempf, general manager of OSTC, last week. “We have had 16,000 vehicles sail on the Chi-Cheemaun thus far this season. It’s good to see the traffic numbers are trickling back up. We are certainly not complaining about the numbers so far this year.”
As for the business plan the OSTC has embarked on, “we have put out tenders to hire a consultant who will provide a marketing assessment and marketing future strategy, assessing the traffic on the Chi-Cheemaun and who and where people are coming from to use this service, and if they are not taking the ferry, whether they are taking other means of travel sources in the area,” said Ms. Schrempf. “For instance, it could be that people are driving because of the improvements made to Highway 69. The strategy will look at how we can sell the services we provide to those who are not currently not using the ferry services. We are trying to put all of this in perspective to market and promote the service in the right areas.”
“It will look at traffic now, how people are getting around now and looking at the future, how we can retain the customers we have now, how we can entice people to use the ferry and expand this in the future,” said Ms. Schrempf, who pointed out the OSTC has sought funding for these strategies through FedNor, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund and Tourism and Development to provide initiatives to get input from local tourist associations and members of the public.
“The study will take place during the rest of the Chi-Cheemaun ferry season in the summer and early fall,” continued Ms. Schrempf. “This will be completed by late fall, and be deliverable to us, then we will be holding meetings to get public input and response on the plans before the end of the season.”
The final report is expected to be complete by the end of January so steps can be taken to implement plans into the 2012-2013 ferry season. “This is obviously a long-term initiative,” Ms. Schrempf told the Recorder.
“The other project we are undertaking is a major capital project over the winter, to be in place for the next season and provide an even safer transportation experience for travellers,” said Ms. Schrempf. “The big life boats on the ship will be gone by the next season on the Chi-Cheemaun. “They will be replaced by the Zodiac-type shepherd vessel, which can hold 100 people, and instead of having the life boat lowered from the ship into the water, people would go down a double-sided slide into the life boats. This new process is much more efficient in evacuating a ship in an emergency.”