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BC Ferries would like to see new vessels made in province, if possible

FILE - BC Ferries is adjusting service levels across multiple routes for the next 60 days. (Courtesy Transportation Safety Board) (Source: facebook.com/BC-Ferries)

A VP at BC Ferries says the company would like to have its new vessels built in BC, if it's feasible

Cost, the environment and the customer are just some of the things BC Ferries needs to keep in mind during fleet renewal

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – BC Ferries would like to see its new vessels built locally, if it’s feasible.

That’s coming from one executive, just days after BC’s premier expressed he too would like to see them built in this province.

“We want to work with local industry, and we’d like to see them be built in BC if that’s possible,” explains Mark Wilson, vice-president of strategy and community engagement at BC Ferries.

The company is in the process of planning the rest of its fleet renewal, with plans to replace the big vessels that run on major routes sometime in the next several years.

“So the C-class vessels, ie the Queen of Coquitlam, the Queen of Cowichan, the Queen of New Westminster, and the Queen of Alberni are all coming up for retirement in around, starting in 2023, so we’re just doing some engineering work on getting everything prepped up for what type of ships do we want to build, what are the main technical requirements of those vessels.”

While the procurement processes are likely a couple of years away, Wilson says the ships will most probably be a similar size to vessels already in service.

So what would it take for the new ferries to be built in BC? There are a number of consideration, Wilson says, but he assures the company will “make it a fair, open, and transparent process.”

“At the end of the day, we need to make sure during the processes that cost is going to be a consideration among several other factors,” he adds. “The ferry users and the current model of the system ultimately are the ones that are paying for those vessels, so we have to be respectful for the system and do what’s right for the ferry users in keeping fares affordable in the system.”

Environmental impact is also another factor Wilson says must be taken into account. “As we move forward in our fleet renewal program at BC Ferries, we’re very concerned about the environment and the green element. We’re going to do everything that we can, we think that we’re a leader in moving forward and new technologies.”

Wilson explains some ships already operate on LNG — and two hybrid electric vessels are currently in the works.

“We see down the road eventually being able to go to all-electric vessels and we’re also very concerned about factoring into the design of our ships to make sure that we minimize our environmental footprint — and that’s also underneath the water in terms of noise levels and being respectful of the environment that we operate in,” he says. “And that’s going to factor in considerably to the ships we’re building now and will build in the future.”

Wilson expects the earliest a new vessel on a major route will be put into service would be late in 2022. The procurement process to replace the Bowen Queen, Mayne Queen, and Powell River Queen is expected to begin within the next month — an order that could result in five new ships.

Premier John Horgan told reporters on Wednesday that he would like to see the new ships built here — but admits there could be some issues.

“That would certainly be my preference,” Horgan told reporters on Wednesday. “But we’ve had 16 years of ship-building on the BC Liberal watch outsourced to other nations. Paying mortgages in Germany and Poland, training German workers, training Polish workers, so. The capacity for the ship building industry is not what it was, but I’m certainly hopeful that we can work with BC Ferries and the ship building industry to participate in the bids to the extent that we can.”