Another of BC Ferries’ Island Class ferries has launched, entering the water recently at Damen Shipyards Galati in Romania. The yet-to-be named ship is the fifth in a series of six Island Class vessels joining the BC Ferries fleet. When in operation, it will be one of two Island Class vessels assigned to the Nanaimo Harbour – Gabriola Island route.
Work will continue on the new ship until scheduled sea trials in June. Following successful sea trials, the vessel will be delivered to Point Hope Maritime in Victoria in late 2021 for final preparations. Two-ship service is scheduled to begin on the Nanaimo Harbour – Gabriola Island route by early 2022, replacing the Quinsam.
Replacing one larger ship with two smaller vessels on the route will provide customers with increased capacity per hour and more frequent service. Customers will also notice reduced vehicle line-ups and congestion on local roads, and improved safety. It also eliminates the need to consume more greenspace to increase the size of terminal holding compounds by moving more traffic through the same amount of space.
The Island Class is a hybrid diesel-electric ferry with a number of key features that support BC Ferries’ Clean Futures Plan and the company’s goal to be efficient and environmentally responsible throughout its system. Once electric charging technology can be installed at BC Ferries’ terminals, these new ships will be configured to operate as all battery-electric ferries, using clean renewable hydroelectric energy. Island Class ferries have the capacity to carry at least 47 vehicles and up to 400 passengers and crew and allow for fleet redeployments and retirements of existing diesel-fuelled vessels.
The first two Island Class vessels were deployed on the Powell River – Texada Island route and the Port McNeill – Alert Bay – Sointula Island route in mid-2020. The third and fourth new ships will provide two-ship service on the Campbell River – Quadra Island route in 2022. The sixth Island Class ferry is expected to launch in the spring.
BC Ferries issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEOI) for the construction of the four latest vessels to leading shipyards in Canada and around the world in July 2018. Canadian shipyards were invited to participate in the competitive bidding process. BC Ferries received responses from 18 international shipyards and short-listed nine shipyards to proceed to the Request for Proposal (RFP) stage. No Canadian companies submitted a bid.