New Vancouver-Nanaimo high-speed ferry will launch from SeaBus terminal

Jun 6 2018, 6:18 am

Although it had originally planned to launch the service this summer – specifically July – a new Nanaimo-Vancouver foot passenger ferry using high-speed catamaran vessels has been delayed.

In a Facebook post, Island Ferry Services (IFS) apologized for the delayed update, and said there are still key tasks that need to be completed.

The company also confirmed that it is in high-level negotiations with TransLink for the use of the SeaBus terminal at Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver. Last fall, the public transit authority issued a request to parties that may be interested in operating a private, non-competing high-speed ferry service from its terminal through a lease, and IFS was ultimately chosen.

As the new service would use the outer berth, not the inner berth used by the SeaBus vessels, alterations to the terminal entail a replacement of the existing ramp and fenders.

“Our commercial negotiations with TransLink are under a very restrictive non-disclosure agreement. As such, we cannot and will not speak to the details other than to say that the discussions are positive and that there are few remaining issues,” reads the post.

But the use of the terminal must also be approved by the Port of Vancouver (VFPA), which is partially responsible for the delays to the launch.

“We did not anticipate that the very minor works required to the outside of the SeaBus Terminal would require a comprehensive permit application to the VFPA – including a separate environmental assessment focused on the potential impact of our operations on marine mammals,” reads the post.

“The permit application and associated study were recently submitted but approval can take up to 60 days.”

Another task relates to completing an environmental assessment required by the Nanaimo Port Authority, a requirement that emerged during lease negotiations. However, an agreement to lease space for a terminal in downtown Nanaimo has already been finalized.

Other work that must be done before the service can carry its first passengers include setting up back-office business operations, hiring and training ship and terminal staff, and the testing of the ship from the construction yard.

Island Ferries spent $40 million on a construction order in Singapore for two new catamaran ferries. Each vessel will have a capacity for 376 passengers and maximum speed of 40 knots (75 kms/hr), allowing a one-way trip between downtown Vancouver and downtown Nanaimo to be conducted in just 68 minutes. Fares are expected to start at just $25.00.

In contrast, the BC Ferries crossing time from West Vancouver to Nanaimo is 100 minutes – and that does not even include the driving time to and from Horseshoe Bay.

“This is a complex, expensive undertaking with many moving parts (some of which have been most unexpected), yet we are working diligently through the regulatory processes to ‘keep those parts moving in the same direction’, and get this service underway,” continues the post.

“We are still investing on this project and remain fully committed to providing this much needed, and highly desired, Nanaimo-Vancouver service.”

Island Ferries is one of two new private ferry services between downtown and Vancouver Island.

Last year, V2V Vacations began an upscale, tourist-oriented service between the berth at the Vancouver Convention Centre’s West Building and the Steamship Terminal Building in downtown Victoria. It uses a 254-seat high-speed passenger catamaran.

However, a planned Vancouver-Victoria service operated by the Victoria Clipper starting in spring 2018 was cancelled last December as the company decided to focus on improving its proven Seattle-Victoria route.

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Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan
Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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