Windsor challenges Maid of the Mist over Tender for Bids
William M. Windsor has issued a challenge to Maid of the Mist, operators of the boat service at Niagara Falls. Windsor has asked Maid of the Mist to inform The Niagara Parks Commission and the New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation that Maid of the Mist does not object to a tender for bids.
Windsor has filed a lawsuit in Ontario asking that the proposed new lease for Maid of the Mist be declared void and requiring a tender for bids. Windsor has also filed a similar action in New York asking the New York State Office of the State Comptroller to declare that the New York Maid of the Mist contract should not have been issued without a tender for bids.
Windsor issued his challenge today after an article appeared in the Niagara Falls Review. The headline reads: “No easy way to replace Maid of the Mist, executive warns -- Five-year disruption inevitable if newcomer took over service, vice-president says.” http://www.nfreview.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1464297
“Replacing our boats with a new fleet… is a process that would literally take years to complete,” Maid of the Mist marketing vice-president Tim Ruddy wrote in a recent letter to Ontario Tourism Minister Monique Smith. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Review. It would be a five year process for a new company to design boats, build them, assemble them on site, and get government approval, Ruddy said. The logistics of getting 600-passenger vessels into the Niagara gorge mean a new company could build a fleet one boat a year, Ruddy said.
Windsor responded by writing a letter to the Minister of Tourism, the Ontario Integrity Commissioner, Premier Dalton McGuinty, and the Executive Council of Ontario.
"If what Mr. Ruddy is claiming is true, it should be a simple matter for Maid of the Mist to ask The Niagara Parks Commission to issue a tender for bids. After all, Maid of the Mist has nothing to lose if Mr. Ruddy is correct. No one else will be able to bid, so Maid of the Mist will win. I hope Maid of the Mist will inform The Niagara Parks Commission and Niagara Falls State Park (New York State Parks) that it would like to end the problems that the Ontario and New York governments now have over this issue by asking them to issue a tender.
"When a tender is issued, it will provide requirements that service be assumed on a specific date. Anyone bidding will have to guarantee that they will have the boats and everything else needed.
"The idea that Maid of the Mist is the only company in the world with boats is humorous at best. As a matter of fact, Maid of the Mist won’t be needing their boats after a competitive bidder wins the contract, so they may want to simply sell their boats, especially if they lose the rights in Canada and the US. With the National Park Service, their tender package and contract for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Cruises requires that the outgoing contract-holder sell their boats to an incoming contract-holder. There is no such stipulation in this case, but it seems like an intelligent idea.
“Mr. Ruddy and Maid of the Mist would like everyone to believe that they are the only company in the world that could possibly offer boat service at Niagara Falls. There is absolutely no truth whatsoever to that position. If I am the winning bidder I will be ready to operate at the designated time. I am sure Ripley’s will be ready, or Hornblower Cruises, or Circle Line Cruises, or New York Waterways, or Red & White Fleet, or Blue & Gold Fleet, or Entertainment cruises, or Aramark, or any other bidder.”
Mr. Ruddy of Maid of the Mist Steamboat Company, Ltd. claims it will take 5 years to build the boats necessary. Windsor responds: "That is absolutely FALSE. Mr. Ruddy also falsely indicates that four boats are required. Only two boats are used in Canada, so a minimum of two boats will be required – not 4."
"Mr. Ruddy claims it will take a year or more to build each boat, so it will take five years to build four boats. I have spoken with the boat expert in our group, and he advises as follows:
"It will take 6 to 8 months to build a basic sightseeing vessel at a shipyard. Multiple vessels could be constructed at the same time. This obviously depends on shipyard schedules, but now is a good time to buy just about anything. We believe two vessels can be built in 8 months.
"Used vessels could also be obtained and transported to Niagara Falls and hoisted by crane into the river. There are obviously various issues and logistics involved, but Maid of the Mist managed to get boats on the river, and so will we.
"I have now been advised that one option is to bring a boat up the Erie Barge Canal and enter Lake Ontario at Oswego NY. We could then motor it across the lake up the Niagara River to Queenston. Then we can arrange to take the boat out approximately 7 miles from the Canadian dock, put it on a truck, drive it late at night or early in the morning to the hill above the dock where a huge crane will lower it down like Maid of the Mist has always done. This will enable us to use some existing boats that are immediately available in New York until new boats are built.
"There’s more than one way to get boats onto the Niagara River…."
Surely Maid of the Mist will want to sell their boats if they lose the tenders. Surely they wouldn’t want to deprive The Niagara Parks Commission of revenues and deprive the people of the world of the experience of seeing the Falls. What in the world can they do with some boats and no place to dock them or use them? Windsor says he would certainly want to explore buying Maid of the Mist’s boats for use while his new boats are built.
Windsor said: "I find the whole concept preposterous that the reason no one else should be allowed to bid is because “Maid of the Mist is the only one there now.” If The Niagara Parks Commission will receive 15% on revenues of $26 million annually for 25 years, that’s $97 million. If I or another bidder can pay them $194 million and provide greatly improved service, then The Niagara Parks Commission should accept our bid and give us reasonable time to get our boats in place if Maid of the Mist doesn’t want to sell their boats.
"Our assumption has been that (a) the tender process will be done far enough in advance to allow for all arrangements to be made and (b) that Maid of the Mist would be prepared to continue to provide boat service until we are ready to take over. When the Alcatraz contract changed a few years ago, Blue & Gold Fleet was extended by six months or more past the target date until Hornblower was ready."
The solution to this growing problem is simple: Tender the contract/lease for bids. The Niagara Parks Commission, the citizens of Ontario, the employees and former employees of The Niagara Parks Commission, the Executive Council of Ontario, and the tourists of the world have everything to gain and nothing to lose.