BC Ferries has one B.C. company on the shortlist for building new ships to replace the Queens of Burnaby and Nanaimo.
The company says it’s sent out a Request for Proposals to five pre-qualified shipyards. Seaspan of North Vancouver is one. Their Washington Marine Group built the MV Island Sky, the newest ship in the fleet. The company that built the “Coastal” class ships, Flensburger in Germany, is also on the shortlist.
The potential for B.C. jobs is good news for Powell River Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons, but the fact ferry riders will have to pay the bill is not.
Simons says the NDP has long believed BC Ferries should build ships in the province, and that the government should cover the capital costs for the ferry system leaving travellers to pay only the operating costs.
But, Simons says putting the current building program on hold is not an option, despite growing financial problems at BC Ferries. “The govenrment should be investing in the infrastructure of our ferries, the (ferry dependent) communities are willing to pay for their operational costs,” he says. “That’s the way everyone in the province has paid for their transportation infrastructure.”
BC Ferries wants two vessels capable of carrying 145 vehicles and up to 600 passengers and crew to replace the 48-year old Queen of Burnaby, which sails between Comox and Powell River and the 49-year old Queen of Nanaimo, which serves the Tsawwassen – Southern Gulf Islands route. They’ll be retiring in 2016.
The company is also ordering a third ship, with a capacity of 125 vehicles and up to 600 passengers and crew. It’s not replacing a specific ship, but will be used to handle extra sailings on during the peak and shoulder seasons on the Southern Gulf Islands route, and for “refit relief” on other routes.
Mark Wilson, BC Ferries’ Vice President of Engineering says they’re specifying ships that are dual-fuel capable and could run on either Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) or normal marine diesel. He says they’re hoping to get special incentive grants to cover any extra costs of having LNG compatible engines.
“We expect to operate these new intermediate class ferries with LNG, which will reduce our fuel costs, and in turn help reduce the upward pressure on fares. In addition, we expect to reduce our environmental footprint with a cleaner fuel source,” he says Wilson. “While other ferry operators have already adopted LNG as a fuel source, these will be the first ships in our fleet to utilize this natural resource which is abundant here in British Columbia.”
The full list of companies in the bidding is:
• Fiskerstrand Blrt As – Norway
• Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft mbH & Co.KG – Germany
• Remontowa Shipbuilding S.A. – Poland
• Seaspan Vancouver Shipyards Co. Ltd. – Canada
• Sefine Shipyard – Turkey
The RFP closes at the end of February, and Ferries expects to award a contract in the spring with the first two ferries to be delivered in 2016 and the third in 2017.