BELLA DESGAGNES Is Newest Ship For Canada

The new BELLA DESGAGNES ready to enter service.  Courtesy of Groupe Desgagnes, Quebec, Canada.
The new BELLA DESGAGNES ready to enter service. Courtesy of Groupe Desgagnes, Quebec, Canada.

Canada has received their first new passenger-cargo ship in many years.  On April 19, 2013 the m/v BELLA DESGAGNES was christened at the Port of Sept-Iles.  This is the latest ship in the fleet of  Relais Nordik which is a subsidiary of Groupe Desgagnés  based in Quebec.  In coastal service, the ship will travel from the south shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, via Sept Iles and Anticosti Island, to a variety of ports on the Lower North Shore as far as Blanc Sablon, which is located at the Quebec/Labrador border on the Strait of Belle Isle.  The sturdy vessel is built to Ice-Class IA, and has dimensions of 318 feet (97.1 meters) and a beam of 64 feet (19.35 meters) with a draft of about 14.5 feet (4.5 meters).  The gross registered tonnage is 6,588 tons.  The ship is designed to reach speeds of 15 knots.

Launch of the BELLA DESGAGNES at the Brodogradiliste Kraljevica shipyard, Croatia.
Launch of the BELLA DESGAGNES at the Brodogradiliste Kraljevica shipyard, Croatia.

The story of this ship’s building and delivery is a fairly dramatic one.  The BELLA DESGAGNES was laid down at the Brodogradiliste Kraljevica shipyard in Croatia as yard number 555.   During construction it became apparent that the builder’s were going through severe financial difficulties.  Not wishing to have their new ship tied up in bankruptcy and red tape, Groupe Desgagnés negotiated with the Croatian government to obtain clear title to the ship.  The transaction was completed on June 12, 2012, just as the yard began bankruptcy proceedings.  Had they not made this move, work on the vessel, which had already been slowed, could have been delayed by as much as two years.   Said to be 92% complete at the time of purchase, the owner’s had the vessel towed around the boot of Italy to the Palumbo Shipyard in Naples, where the remaining work was finished.  Following sea trials, the ship was ready for her trans-Atlantic delivery voyage, leaving Naples on March  22, 2013.   On the Atlantic she received a baptism that should prove her fitness for any conditions that might be encountered on regular service in Eastern Canada.  The little ship pitched and rolled as it endured extremely heavy weather in gales reaching near-hurricane force.  The storms delayed her arrival to Canada by four days, but she safely made landfall at Halifax, Nova Scotia on April 9th.  She moved on to Blanc Sablon on the 11th and paid courtesy calls to all of the ports that she will be serving on her regular route to introduce her to the local residents.

In an incomplete state the ship was towed to the Palumbo Shipyard in Naples, Italy where the work was completed.
In an incomplete state the ship was towed to the Palumbo Shipyard in Naples, Italy where the work was completed.

The forward half of the BELLA DESGAGNES looks like a passenger ship while the aft section is all about the business of cargo and containers.  A 40 metric ton crane with a boom over 114 feet (35 meters) long provides the lift for up to 125 containers that can be carried on deck.  Cars and general cargo are also transported.  In the passenger area 63 cabins provide berths for 126 passengers.  At capacity the ship can accommodate 381 passengers some of whom will travel in airline-style seats.  Public areas include a lecture room, an 88-seat dining room and a 112-seat cafeteria among the passenger facilities.  The BELLA DESGAGNES is planned to replace the much smaller NORDIK EXPRESS (ex THERIOT OFFSHORE IV, SCOTOIL 4) of just 1,748 tons with a cpacity for 144 passengers.   That ship was built in Seattle, Washington in 1974 and has been on this route in Canada since 1987.  Trips on the new ship can be booked as roundtrip cruises lasting 7-days, in addition to providing transportation from port-to-port.

Shawn Dake

Shawn Dake

Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years.  A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary.  A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs.  Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America.  With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
Shawn Dake
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