BC Ferries' one-year-old cable ferry Baynes Sound Connector consumes 50% less fuel than the previous vessel
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2017 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
While many firms are being forced to cut back or consolidate their existing operations, there are a few notable exceptions. Whether its fluctuating currency prices or unstable geopolitics, it is always interesting to take a step back and see how different companies respond to their various challenges. In the eyes of Canadian operator BC Ferries, it is a time for expansion.
“It’s been an exciting year,” begins Captain Jamie Marshall, the vice president of fleet operations at BC Ferries, the firm responsible for connecting the communities in and around the coast and islands of Canada’s western seaboard. “All three of our new Salish-class vessels have arrived from Poland, which completes the series build of our newest ships. The Canadian dollar is driving growth and we anticipate that this summer could be one of the busiest on record in the 57-year history of our company.”
The new Salish-class vessels put down a real marker for BC Ferries. The dual-fuel ships, which operate on LNG and marine diesel, mean that the company will be significantly reducing its environmental footprint – roughly about 9,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. That’s about 1,900 cars taken off the road completely.
“The Salish class are our first LNG vessels and not only are they better for the environment, but in British Columbia, natural gas is approximately 40% less expensive to purchase,” says Marshall. “Using natural gas as the primary fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 15% to 25%, sulphur oxides by more than 85%, nitrogen oxides by more than 50%, and nearly eliminates particulate matter.”
Each of the vessels can handle about 145 vehicles and up to 600 passengers and crew. Given that they include everything from facilities for pets to a children’s play area, the vessels are adequately equipped for the needs of the modern traveller.
Whichever way people choose to measure the vessels – be it by the modern conveniences or by the environmental figures – they emphasise the work BC Ferries is doing to not only to raise its green credentials, but also to build for its future. Another example of the company’s forward-thinking ethos was when it took on the new route between Port Hardy, on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, and Bella Coola, on the mid-coast. Due to start service on the route in 2018, BC Ferries has sourced a suitable ship, Aqua Spirit, and is now in the process of refurbishing her.
“We will make some modifications to the hull, such as adding a rubbing strake, modifying the stern loading door and landing apron,” Marshall explains. “The interior will be modified by refreshing passenger and crew areas, adding a passenger galley and dining tables, improving accessibility arrangements for mobility restricted customers, as well as some berth modifications at the terminals that this vessel will serve. In addition, as this vessel is focused on tourism, the upper deck outside areas will be rearranged to ensure that good sightlines are provided for passenger viewing.”
The tourism that Marshall mentions BC Ferries will be helping to sustainably increase is to Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, one of the country’s most beautiful landscapes. Given that the service will be able to handle 35 vehicles and 150 passengers, BC Ferries’ role has been crucial – one of the reasons the company decided to discuss the plans in detail with local tourism representatives and first nations was to ensure that the entire operation is beneficial to all concerned parties.
Another milestone for BC Ferries was the recent one-year anniversary of its cable ferry, Baynes Sound Connector, which runs on the Buckley Bay – Denman Island route.
“The vessel has certainly met and exceeded our expectations,” Marshall says. “It consumes 50% less fuel than the previous vessel, it has the ability to make more trips at peak times when demand is high, and its on-time performance is at almost 98%. Baynes Sound Connector has the ability to provide an extra roundtrip within the service day due to its operational efficiencies. This means we can carry an extra 100 vehicles per day on the route, compared to the previous vessel, if traffic demands.”
BC Ferries is also investing heavily in its infrastructure, with a C$3 billion (US$2.4 billion) investment plan over the next 10 years so that “we can continue to provide British Columbians and visitors to our province a safe, reliable, West Coast travel experience,” Marshall adds.
“We’ve recently signed a contract with Damen Shipyards Group of the Netherlands to build two new minor class vessels that are scheduled to go into service in 2020,” Marshall says.
“The agreement is a design-build, fixed-priced contract that provides BC Ferries with substantial guarantees related to delivery dates, performance criteria, cost certainty and quality construction. The two minor class vessels will have the capacity to carry at least 44 vehicles and up to 300 passengers and crew. They will have a number of key features supporting BC Ferries’ goal to be efficient and environmentally responsible throughout its system. As you can see, there’s a lot going on here at BC Ferries.”