DEER ISLAND (GNB) – The provincial government has entered into a 15-year agreement with Coastal Transport Ltd. of Saint John for operating and maintaining the ferries serving the Fundy Isles, including Deer Island.

"This inclusive partnership agreement will provide sustainability of the service for the islands during the long term," said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claude Williams. "At Deer Island, Coastal Transport Ltd. will be taking on the majority of employees to ensure a smooth transition of the service. Every reasonable effort will be made to reassign any remaining staff with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure. Collective agreements will be respected throughout this process."

Coastal Transport Ltd. already operates the Grand Manan and White Head ferries under the Fundy Isles Ferry Service. As part of the new performance-based contract, the inclusion of the Deer Island ferry service will enable the operator to increase business and efficiency and improve the flexibility of its workforce.

"Grouping all of the province's coastal ferry services into one will allow for more focused management of this sector," Williams said. "Coastal Transport Ltd. is a well-known and respected company. We are confident Deer Island ferry users will continue to receive quality, reliable and safe service from the operator."

A new $4.7-million ferry is expected to be in operation for Deer Island in 2014. Coastal Transport Ltd. will continue to operate and maintain the current vessels until that time. The new ferry will replace the John E. Rigby, one of those two ferries.

Coastal Transport Ltd. will officially take over the ferry service on May 28. The new contract for all ferry services to the Fundy Isles totals $13.8 million per year.