Thursday, April 6, 2017

BC Ferries to expand Central Coast service in 2018

After a number of years of lobbying from community and First Nations officials, along with requests from residents of the Central Coast, BC Ferries has announced that a new daily service to run  through the summer and hopefully one that will bring more visitors to the region is to be introduced in 2018.

On Wednesday BC Ferries, along with a little financial assistance from the Provincial Government, responded to the calls for improved service for Bella Coola, Bella Bella, Ocean Falls, Shearwater and Port Hardy.

Yesterday the Ferry Service outlined their plans to expand sailings into the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest through the introduction of a five day a week service to start running from June 19th to September 14th next year.

To put that expanded schedule into operation BC Ferries has once again turned to Greece to solve their ship inventory requirements, with the Ferry Corporation purchasing a Greek Ferry called the Aqua Spirit.

The Province of British Columbia has announced that it will contribute 15 million dollars towards the purchase and operation of the vessel, which will undergo major upgrades this fall to make it ready for service in 2018. Plans include the refurbishment of lounges, the galley, washroom facilities and outer deck spaces.

As part of the British Columbia financial contribution,Transportation Minister Todd Stone  noted that the new service would bring a cost increase for BC Ferries compared to the present service.

“The Province recognizes that the new service will result in incremental costs to BC Ferries over and above the existing service on route 10S, which is why we are contributing $15 million to BC Ferries to help ensure that this new direct-summer service has a successful start,” ... “With the upturn in tourism and particular interest in the Great Bear Rainforest, we expect this new route 28 to become an important complement to local tourism initiatives.”

According to BC Ferries the vessel Aqua Spirit was built in the year 2000 and will accommodate more than 35 vehicles, as well as hold 150 passengers and crew. The Aqua Spirit most recently was in service connecting communities throughout the Greek Islands, BC Ferries will take possession of the ship in August.

The Aqua Spirit in the waters off of the Greek Islands, BC Ferries has
purchased the vessel for use on the Central Coast in 2018.
(photo from NEL lines website)

The Aqua Spirit which will be renamed after consultation with mid-coast communities, will also replace the current vessel Nimpkish, the 44 year old vessel currently connects the communities of the Central Coast.

The newly purchased vessel will join another former Greek ferry in the waters of British Columbia, BC Ferries last went the way of the Greek shipbuilders in 2006 when they purchased the MV Sonia, which at the time was working in the Bahamas.

After refurbishment in British Columbia that vessel was re-christened the Northern Adventure and is currently in service on runs between Prince Rupert, Haida Gwaii and Port Hardy.

As for the Great Bear Rainforest plans, BC Ferries has already provided the first glimpse of their service plan for 2018, providing a short synopsis of the route to the BC Ferries website.

The voyage between Port Hardy and Bella Coola is anticipated to be 10 hour journey and will take place in the daytime hours to maximize the tourism potential for the region.

BC Ferries will be releasing further scheduling and background information in the weeks to come

The announcement of the pending upgrade for the Central Coast service comes as the 2017 election campaign begins to head into its early days, the desire for better Ferry transportation on the North and Central Coast had already made for an early campaign theme for those contesting the May 9th election.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, who has long advocated for better ferry service for the Central Coast communities, has not to this point offered up a comment on the newest addition for the BC Ferries fleet.

Liberal candidate Herb Pond made a short mention of the acquisition through his Facebook page on Wednesday.

For more items related to Marine Transportation on the North Coast see our archive page here.

No comments:

Post a Comment