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Published: Wednesday, 5/9/2012

Pelee Island ferries further delayed


PELEE ISLAND, Ontario, Canada -- The two ferries that run to Pelee Island, the southernmost part of Canada, will not be in service until at least the end of May, the company that runs the vessels said Tuesday.

Two ferries that run the international route have been out of service for weeks. The Pelee Islander provides service from Sandusky and the Jiimaan runs to the island from the Canadian towns of Leamington and Kingsville. The vessels usually start shuttling passengers and cargo back and forth to the island in April.

The Jiimaan was originally expected back on the water this week and the Pelee Islander was due to be released for service next Tuesday.

"It has been confirmed to [Owen Sound Transportation Co.] that the necessary repairs to M.V. Jiimaan will not be completed in time for a May 11 return to service date," the company said in a statement. "At this time, our best information is that the repairs are estimated to be completed at the end of the month. The actual return to service date will be updated as the work progresses."

The company further stated: "Regrettably, the M.V. Pelee Islander will not operate any service between Pelee Island and Sandusky, Ohio, until the M.V. Jiimaan is back."

Some of the about 200 year-round residents who live on the island told The Blade last week that the boats being out of service is wreaking havoc on the small community's economy, which relies primarily upon farming and tourism. Farmers said they normally would start planting this Thursday if they could get the supplies they need, and the island hosts an annual bird-watching festival that starts Friday.

Currently, the only way to get to the island is by small plane, but there is usually a 40-pound baggage limit on the small charter flights. The island's small airport cannot handle large cargo planes.

The Canadian government, which owns the two ferries, is now subsidizing small aircraft flights from Windsor to the island. The flights, which are usually only available during the winter, currently cost $7.50 for a regular ticket and $5 for seniors, the same cost of a ride on the ferries.

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