Charting the course for BC Ferries

BC Ferries’ Nicolas Jimenez tells Justin Merrigan about the Canadian operator’s long-term transformative journey to reshape its coastal ferry services

Charting the course for BC Ferries

BC Ferries

By Laura Hyde |

For many British Columbia coastal communities, BC Ferries services are a real lifeline. That is why the ferry operator has embarked on a mission to define what is needed to keep people, goods and services in coastal communities connected and moving through to 2050 and beyond.  

Recognising the challenges and opportunities posed by long-term trends in population growth, affordability, technological advances, the rise of electric vehicles and climate change impacts, BC Ferries has committed to creating a ferry system that is sustainable, resilient and equipped to serve future generations, explains CEO Nicolas Jimenez.  

When he began leading the business in March 2023, Jimenez was new to the ferry industry. “Stepping up into leadership roles is essential, particularly when a company has large and complex challenges to tackle,” he says. “For me, it’s precisely this complexity that makes me excited about the work that lies ahead.”  

Jimenez explains that in his first nine months in the role, he had the opportunity to talk with many of BC Ferries employees and observe how the company operates. “Through these conversations I got to know about the organisation’s many strengths, and the areas where we need more focus and discipline,” he explains. “The one constant with everyone I talked to was that we have a shared motivation to see the company succeed. 

“We’ve updated our structure to strengthen our strategic planning capabilities, enhance our ability to execute on enterprise priorities, deepen our focus recruiting and developing talent, and improve how we communicate, both within the organisation and to our customers, partners and stakeholders across the province.” 

BC Ferries has ordered four more hybrid electric Island-class vessels, bringing the number of ships in this class to 10. Jimenez says this is the single largest class in the company’s history. “Building more Island-class ferries reduces the number of vessel classes we operate, which in turn helps with maintenance, refit, training and other operational activities,” he adds. “Importantly, it gives us more flexibility to shift our ships across routes to keep people moving when the inevitable mechanical breakdowns in the fleet occur. These new ships will be deployed on the Nanaimo to Gabriola and Campbell River to Quadra routes in 2027.  

BC Ferries

“We’ve updated our structure to strengthen our strategic planning capabilities,” says Jimenez

“The electrification of these two routes will reduce annual emissions by approximately 10,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. That’s about three per cent of our total emissions and will help get us closer to meeting our 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target.” 

BC Ferries is also in the middle of its New Major Vessel programme, the largest undertaking in its history to significantly improve the ferry experience in British Columbia. “We plan to build up to seven ships to replace six retiring vessels, adding more capacity to a growing province, improve reliability and reduce our environmental impact,” says Jimenez. “Vessel replacement at this scale is a multi-year project that requires careful planning and execution.” 

As a major operator along coastal British Columbia, BC Ferries recognises its responsibility to provide ferry services in the safest, most efficient and environmentally responsible and sustainable manner possible. “As we embrace our environmental stewardship of the lands and seas that are our workplaces, we do so as custodians for future generations,” says Jimenez. 

“We’re working with our suppliers to increase our use of low-carbon fuels. This is critical to meeting our aggressive 2030 emission reduction target. Last year, through our use of low-carbon fuels, we were able to generate over $25 million in carbon credit sales to help fund future green-related projects and initiatives. We operate in one of the most beautiful places on earth here in British Columbia and are committed to preserving it. 

“More than just fuel, we’ve worked hard to examine other strategies. In 2023, we diverted 950,000 kilograms of organic and recyclable waste material away from the landfill, equivalent to the weight of over 25 humpback whales.” 

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of  Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe  for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.  

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