Lady Rose Marine Services has new owners. That means the MV Frances Barkley passenger and cargo vessel will continue operating between Port Alberni and Bamfield.
Greg Willmon and Barrie Rogers, owners of Devon Transport Ltd. of Nanaimo, announced late Monday that Lady Rose Marine owner Mike Surrell accepted their letter of intent to purchase the business.
“Destiny was set in motion during a conversation I had with current Lady Rose Marine Services owner Mike Surrell a few weeks ago,” Willmon said. “We were unloading our truck on his dock. It started with a question, ‘How are things, Mike?’ He commented, ‘They could be better Greg, there is a 50/50 chance the Frances Barkley won’t be sailing next year, possibly sooner.’
“I asked if he would consider selling rather than shutting down the service, his answer was ‘Let’s talk.’.”
Those talks commenced 10 days later after Willmon returned from a vacation with family at his Bamfield residence.
Willmon and Rogers said they recognized that the ferry service was “far too valuable” to the region and one that was deeply relied on by the remote communities and businesses of the Alberni Inlet and Barkley Sound. The pair did not want to see Lady Rose Marine become another casualty of the pandemic.
Devon Transport Ltd. already has ties to the Alberni Valley: the company runs the Budget Rent A Car & Truck and Budget Self-Storage location on Third Avenue. The business also has close partnerships within the Port Alberni business community, Willmon noted.
Surrell announced last week that the company would be forced to close at the end of the month and the last trip for the MV Frances Barkley will be Aug. 31 (all trips in August are fully booked). He said he and his wife Pauline “could not be happier with the sale of Lady Rose Marine. We fully understand the ramifications of this ship stopping service and the impact it would make in Port Alberni and the Barkley Sound.”
Surrell said he will stay on to help with the ownership transition for the next year. “We are proud to be able to continue helping the new owners in making this company the success it was pre-COVID.”
Devon Transport Ltd. purchased all of Surrell’s business holdings and will retain present staff in order to continue uninterrupted service.
The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, members of Huu-ay-aht First Nations and other stakeholders held a meeting on Monday, Aug. 16 to talk about options for marine service to Bamfield.
ACRD Area A (Bamfield) director Bob Beckett said discussions at the meeting were “very positive.” He was not able to discuss publicly the change of ownership.
“We expect there to be no disruption to this essential community service,” he said.