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Marine Atlantic update on newest vessel

The Ala’suinu means traveller in Mi’kmaq, and was named after consultation with Indigenous stakeholders. – Courtesy of Marine Atlantic

By Jaymie L. White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES — On Monday, July 10, Marine Atlantic announced that their new vessel, scheduled to enter service in 2024, will be called Ala’suinu (pronounced Ah-laa-sue-in-ou) a name that means “Traveller” in Mi’kmaq. “Truth and Reconciliation is very important to Marine Atlantic and our employees. As we looked at options for the naming of our new vessel, our employees overwhelmingly highlighted this as their top priority. We consulted with Indigenous stakeholders regarding potential names that would recognize their culture and heritage in a respectful and meaningful manner. We are very proud to name our new vessel the Ala’suinu and celebrate this connection to our Mi’kmaq communities. We look forward to its arrival early next year,” said Murray Hupman, President and CEO of Marine Atlantic. A lot of brainstorming took place once it became time to select the new name. “We started a process by reaching out to our employees, asked them if they had any suggestions or themes that they would like to see with the new vessel. The overwhelming majority of the responses was a focus on truth and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and we had a number of options that were submitted. We had quite a number of names actually, that were submitted for consideration. From that list we developed a shorter list and we engaged with some indigenous stakeholders, primarily some experts on the Mi’kmaq language, Dean Simon in Newfoundland and Michael Denny in Nova Scotia,” said Darrell Mercer, Corporate Communications with Marine Atlantic. “So they took the options that we submitted, gave us some background on the names and whether they would be appropriate from an Indigenous perspective and whether they were respectful, reflected the traditional way of life, those types of things. So once we went through that process and we saw the various options that were submitted, we settled on the Ala’suinu, which means Traveler in Mi’kmaq, so it was a valuable process. We’re very glad to have our employees engaged in that process and also to consult with the Indigenous stakeholders to ensure that what was submitted would be an appropriate name for our vessel.” The new energy efficient vessel should arrive in the country early next year. “Once it arrives in Canada, there’s going to be some familiarization training that will have to take place, number of activities that would be associated with bringing a new vessel into service,” said Mercer. “Right now our goal is to have that vessel in operation for the next summer season and right now we’re on target to meet that goal.” The latest accessibility standards are only one of the many amenities passengers can expect with the new vessel, which will include the ability to carry up to 1,000 passengers and have 146 passenger cabins. Eight of those will be pet-friendly cabins, and there will also be 40 passenger pods, seating lounges, a children’s play area, and a pet kennel. The pet-friendly cabins are currently one of the most popular amenities on existing vessels. “Right now we’ve got eight pet-friendly cabins that are designated per crossing. Obviously that’s something that we continue to evaluate. They’re very popular with customers. So this summer when we look at what we’ve had on the Blue Puttees and the Highlanders, the Atlantic Vision, all of the pet-friendly cabins have been reserved for the entire summer,” said Mercer. “So it’s a very popular amenity that customers have been looking for. So right now that’s our policy is to have those eight pet-friendly cabins per crossing and that will continue with the new vessel, and obviously we’ll continue to evaluate whether or not we need to look at whether we can increase that number, whether there’s appetite to do that. That’s something that will be considered based upon the feedback and the information that we gather from this summer season as well.” Even though the vessel will have updated technologies, this will have no bearing on the ferry rates. “This is a capital investment by the Government of Canada to bring the vessel into service, so it’s nothing to do with the cost recovery model, with the operational costs. This is strictly a capital expense. So the new vessel will come in, it’ll offer new technologies, amenities for customers, and that’s the benefit. When you bring a new vessel into service, there’s always new technologies that have come about from an energy efficiency perspective,” explained Mercer. “Amenities like some of the different pieces that we have associated with this one, for example, is a dual fuel technology. So we have the ability to use battery power to power the vessel at times, which will reduce the carbon footprint. We have new measures that are in place that’s going to reduce the underwater noise that the vessel creates so that’ll help protect marine life. It’s going to have the latest accessibility standards. Obviously vessels that were constructed previously had the latest accessibility standards at that point in time; however, those standards change over time and this new vessel will have that incorporated into its infrastructure. So it’s a very positive piece. Passenger pods is another new amenity that’s going to be introduced that I think will be popular with customers and 146 cabins, which is significantly more than would be on the Blue Puttees and the Highlanders right now. So it has a lot of benefits that it’s going to bring to our service and we’re quite excited to prepare to welcome it next year.” Mercer said that passenger anticipation seems to be quite palpable. “I get the sense that people are getting excited when they hear about the amenities that are proposed. Obviously, more cabins during the summer season – cabins are at a premium, so having those additional cabins available will be very beneficial for those customers wanting that amenity,” said Mercer. “The passenger pods, a lot of people are interested in seeing what those passenger pods look like because it is different. It’s not quite a full cabin, but it does offer a private space with a bed so that people can get a good night’s rest.” The passenger pods will offer a bit more privacy than the models that were on the older ferries. “The question becomes, well, how does that compare to what was in the Caribou in the Smallwood back in the eighties and nineties where they had dormitory sleepers? Because that’s the question that we get, and the difference with the dormitory sleepers for those that would remember that process is you have a number of different berths, but they were all together and there wasn’t any privacy. So this is going to have a similar type concept, except each space is going to be segregated and with its own privacy. So I think that’s going to be a welcome option for customers and that’s one of the pieces that we’re hearing a lot of excitement about is the passenger pods and the cabins and benefits and options that will bring for customers.”

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