After much anticipation, the Pelee Islander II is set to make its maiden voyage from Leamington to Pelee Island on Saturday.

There have been delays getting the passenger ferry into service after it was shipped from Chile nearly a year ago.

But Ontario Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek joined local dignitaries to cut the ribbon at the dock in Leamington on Friday.

The $40-million vessel has been 12 years in the making. It was commissioned by the previous government and built in Chile, which was a controversial decision at the time.

It has been docked since it arrived in the area in June, due to maintenance and safety issues.

The vessel was originally scheduled to set sail in September.

Minister Yurek says even though there were delays and extra maintenance was required, it didn’t cost taxpayers a dime more than it was supposed to.

“There were some warranty fixes that needed to be done,” says Yurek. “There was no more taxpayer dollars spent on this, it was covered by warranty as they fixed what might have gone wrong during the voyage up here. But today, it’s ready to roll, ships safe and ready to take people starting tomorrow (Saturday) morning.”

The Pelee Islander II has a carrying capacity of 399 passengers and 34 cars, or four tractor-trailers and 16 cars.

About 50,000 people cross between Leamington and Pelee Island annually, making this ferry, along with the Jiiman, very important to the island’s economy.

“The ferries travelling to Pelee Island and the mainland are in fact a much needed life-line for the residents of the island, as well as for economic growth through agriculture and tourism,” says Rick Nicholls, the PC MPP for Chatham-Kent and Leamington. “This new modern day ferry will making travelling more enjoyable and reliable for everyone.”

“Today’s pretty exciting for me to see this one to fruition,” says former Pelee Island mayor Rick Masse. “It’s one of the major issues I worked on as mayor.”

The new ferry will replace the nearly 60-year-old Pelee Islander.