I'd only heard about this in passing once or twice, but soon Toronto is going to get it's own fastcat!:) It's being built in Australia.. and it's ... close to the size of the PacifiCat's I think... a bit larger perhaps. They seem to think it's really big (I read an article from on of the papers back there) ... 5 stories tall and stuff... which isn't much to us out here, but hey! Apparently it'll be launched fairly soon and be in service early next year. There's a good website about the project here:
Post by Flugel Horn on Apr 19, 2008 21:35:49 GMT -8
From Globe & Mail: re Toronto - Rochester ferry idea, for a hovercraft: - this article is kinda funny at times. I wonder if they are intersted in a Gibsons-Vancouver run too? ================================
Hot air or shipshape? Hovercraft service a tough sell A 32-year-old entrepreneur with no ferry experience is trying to persuade Toronto and Rochester to take a chance on his vision
ANTHONY REINHART firstname.lastname@example.org; Compiled by Johanna Boffa
E-mail Anthony Reinhart | Read Bio | Latest Columns April 19, 2008
Of all the conveyances developed for human travel, the Hovercraft is surely one of the most intriguing.
It can be large enough to carry hundreds of people and dozens of cars, yet skim above the water on a thin cushion of, well, nothing.
Dale Wilson, a 32-year-old Brampton man with no ferry experience, insists there's more than just air holding up his plan for a passenger service between Toronto and Rochester, using two mothballed English Channel Hovercraft eight years older than he is.
"Someone has to drive the show, and that's me," Mr. Wilson told The Globe and Mail in a recent interview.
Officials on both sides of Lake Ontario, still stinging from a pair of failed attempts to run a Toronto-Rochester ferry earlier this decade, will likely require a lot more persuading.
To hear Mr. Wilson, everything sounds shipshape.
For one, there's a boatload of cash - $7.5-million, he says - which unnamed investors have pledged toward the anticipated $10-million cost to buy and revive the venerable Princess Anne and Princess Margaret, which were taken out of service in 2000.
There's still a market for a Toronto-Rochester ferry, he argues, despite the low ridership and high costs that sank the Spirit of Ontario in 2004 and 2005-06. Mr. Wilson says his craft will offer a cheaper ride in half the time.
And then there are the intangibles: vision, drive and leadership, underpinned by the credentials of the young entrepreneur and the experts he says he'll bring on board.
It's a bright and exciting view from the bridge of Mr. Wilson's venture, to which he hopes to add a service he has been pitching, without success, for five years around Lake Ontario: high-speed marine commuter ferries between Toronto, Oshawa, Hamilton and Niagara.
But first, he has to persuade the Toronto Port Authority and the City of Rochester to see what he sees.
"No, I haven't run a ferry and I don't have direct ferry experience, but as with any business, management skills can be acquired, and that's not what I bring to the project," Mr. Wilson said in an interview on the east-end waterfront, in the port area. "I bring not only the equipment, but the motivation, the ability and the implementation of this."
A similarly clear confidence imbues the 15-page proposal Mr. Wilson's company, Hover Transit Services, submitted to the Toronto Port Authority and the City of Rochester on March 31. His was the only response to the two bodies' recent request for qualifications to operate a ferry service starting in 2009. (An RFQ is a routine method government agencies use to scout private-sector partners for certain services.)
Decidedly cloudier, on closer inspection, are the waters beneath the plan.
While his written proposal states that the owner of the Hovercraft "has reached an agreement to sell the vessels to HTS," Mr. Wilson took a slight step back in the interview, saying "an agreement is at hand."
(The Hovercraft belong to Wensley Haydon-Baillie, a reclusive millionaire described as a "British Howard Hughes," who bought them in 2006, presumably for their engines, similar to those that power his yacht.)
Since they were decommissioned in the fall of 2000, the vessels have sat outside the Hovercraft Museum in the English Channel town of Lee-on-the-Solent.
Chris Potter, a museum trustee, suggested high costs and logistical challenges will make it difficult, if not impossible, to return the two craft to service.
"Don't get me wrong, we would love nothing more than to see these majestic craft operate again somewhere in the world and would be first in line for tickets on the new service," he wrote in an e-mail, "but we feel that realistically that [the] craft have been left too long now and would not prove a viable option as the basis of a new Hovercraft service."
Mr. Wilson dismissed these doubts as uninformed, and said he has obtained a "full-on assessment of what needs to be done" to restore the craft. When asked for the report, he sent one page to The Globe and Mail, but refused to send the rest. When pressed further, he refused again, saying the "information is entirely proprietary."
As far as ability is concerned, Mr. Wilson's plan calls for recruitment of Hovercraft experts from Europe, along with marketing and managerial professionals.
He also said his company has "partnered with" the operators of two existing privately owned ferries, which he refused to name, that have run between Ontario and the United States for a combined 100 years.
When contacted by The Globe, two of the three ferry operators in Ontario who fit that description said they had never spoken with Mr. Wilson, while the third said he met him "a couple of times" and came away unimpressed.
"I just didn't feel he knew that much about the [business]," said Dale Dean, president of the Walpole-Algonac Ferry Line on the St. Clair River. "I wouldn't back him."
There are other anomalies.
In the plan, Mr. Wilson is described as having been "classically educated at London School of Economics." In the interview, however, Mr. Wilson said he is a graduate of the University of Guelph, which is not mentioned in the proposal, and that he spent just one term studying at LSE, while working at a British risk-management firm.
Asked if this might mislead readers of the proposal, he said, "It might do. It's up for interpretation, I would say; I guess I could be a little bit more clear on that, that's for sure."
His company's registered address is his parents' house in Bolton, northwest of Toronto, but Mr. Wilson said he is working mostly from his rented apartment in Brampton until a proper office can be set up.
Whatever Mr. Wilson's Hovercraft plan might promise, it is sure to face probing questions in the coming weeks, on both sides of the lake.
That's especially true in Rochester, a struggling city that gambled and lost millions of public dollars on the Spirit of Ontario. A subsequent New York State audit was blunt in its criticism of city officials for failing to anticipate the trouble they encountered.
"I think we're both going to be cautious," said Paul Morrell, port operations manager in Rochester. "From a public perspective, it's got to be a doable and viable private business."
At the Toronto Port Authority, which spent $8-million on a new ferry terminal, now used as a set for a TV show, harbour master Angus Armstrong said "we're going to have to see, for instance, a strong financial plan here."
Mr. Wilson suggests officials shouldn't hold their breath for him to open his books unless they're prepared to join in a so-called "3P," or public-private partnership, with his company.
"They have to step up to the plate just as much as we do," he said. "It can't be a one-sided equation where they're just looking for information and then they don't provide the assistance.
"At the end of the day, it's all about the dollars, isn't it? It needs to have some government support."
CROSSING THE LAKE
The War of 1812 gives cross-lake travel a boost as Commodore Isaac Chauncey sails from Sackett's Harbour to York with a small squadron of converted merchant schooners and the 26-gun Madison in April, 1813. 1830-1890
Dozens of ships, from small scows to large three-masted schooners are used by farmers to ferry produce to Oswego, N.Y.
Two car and passenger ferries begin service between Toronto and Rochester, N.Y., operated by Canada Steamship Lines. 1907
The Ontario No. 1, a coal freighter operated by the Ontario Car Ferry Co., begins service between Rochester and Cobourg, Ont. 1915
A second Ontario Car Ferry Co. freighter, the Ontario No. 2, goes into service. By the 1920s, it is estimated, they carried as many as 70,000 passengers a season.
Canada Steamship Lines halts operation of the Toronto.
The Kingston and the Ontario No. 1 cease service.
The Ontario No. 2 folds.
The 365-foot ferry Lakespan Ontario begins service between Oshawa, Ont., and Oswego. It folds the following year.
The Spirit of Ontario 1, operated by Canadian American Transportation Systems, starts a fast-ferry service between Rochester and Toronto on June 17.
The Spirit of Ontario 1 ceases operations.
Compiled by Johanna Boffa ===========================