BC Ferries orders 4 new hybrid-electric vessels from Europe for $200 million

Nov 6 2019, 5:18 pm

BC Ferries has made a further order of four additional electric-battery hybrid Island Class vessels from a major European shipyard.

The ferry corporation announced today Damen Shipyards Group of the Netherlands has been awarded the contract to build the new vessels.

The combined cost of the design-build, fixed-price order is $200 million. According to a release, BC Ferries’ procurement process resulted in 18 bids from international shipyards, with a shortlist of nine shipyards invited to participate in the detailed bidding process. No Canadian shipyards expressed interest in competing for the contract.

This adds to the first two Island Class vessels ordered from the same shipyard in Spring 2017, with these vessels recently completing sea trials and set to arrive in Victoria by January 2020. By the middle of next year, these initial vessels will be used on the routes from Powell River to Texada Island and from Port McNeill to Alert Bay to Sointula Island.

Then in 2022, the vessels from the latest order will arrive, serving the routes from Campbell River to Quadra Island and from Nanaimo Harbour to Gabriola Island. This deployment effectively replaces one larger ship with two smaller vessels on each of these routes, providing more frequent service and increased passenger capacity per hour. It will result in shorter vehicle queues, improved safety, and reduced road congestion.

These all-electric Island Class ferries will initially operate on their low-sulphur diesel hybrid systems, before eventually transitioning to electric charging when the technology matures.

“Our Clean Futures Plan spells out our strategy to reduce GHG emissions by replacing our legacy carbon intensive fossil fuelled vessels with ships using clean energy,” said Captain Jamie Marshall, BC Ferries’ vice president of business development and innovation, in a statement.

“These next four Island Class ships are a major step in our plan to progressively lower emissions across the fleet and be a leader in the energy transition to a lower carbon future.”

Twin propellers reduce underwater radiated noise, and machinery is vibration-isolated to lower underwater and ambient noise. The ferry corporation says these vessels will be amongst the most energy efficient and quietest electric-hybrid ferries in the world.

BC Ferries Island Class

Artistic rendering of BC Ferries’ Island Class vessels. (BC Ferries)

Each of the six vessels will have the capacity to carry at least 47 vehicles and between 300 and 450 passengers and crew, depending on configuration.

As with the latest ferry designs on the fleet, there are comfortable passenger lounges and solariums for optimal views during each sailing. A variety of seating choices, along with charging stations for electronic devices, will be made available.

The design of the vessels is uniquely fully accessible without the need for elevators. All lighting in the vessels are achieved with LED.

BC Ferries is in the process of delivering its 12-year, $3.9-billion plan of upgrading a dozen ferry terminals, and replacing and adding vessels.

The largest ferry order in recent memory has yet to come, as the ferry corporation also plans on acquiring five new vessels to replace all five C-Class ferries built in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

This includes the Queen of Alberni, Queen of Coquitlam, Queen of Cowichan, Queen of Oak Bay, and Queen of Surrey, with each sister vessel sharing the same length of 138 metres (457 feet) but offering varying capacities of between 1,200 and 1,494 passengers and crew and about 300 vehicles.

Damen Shipyards also recently performed the mid-life refit of the Spirit of Vancouver Island and Spirit of British Columbia — the two largest vessels on the BC Ferries fleet — and built TransLink’s newest SeaBus vessel.

Artistic rendering of BC Ferries’ new Island Class vessel. (BC Ferries)

Artistic rendering of BC Ferries’ new Island Class vessel. (BC Ferries)