New plan to launch downtown Nanaimo to downtown Vancouver high-speed ferry

Sep 17 2021, 6:13 pm

There will be a brand new attempt to launch a high-speed, passenger-only ferry service from downtown Nanaimo to downtown Vancouver.

This week, the Nanaimo Port Authority and Snuneymuxw First Nation announced a partnership with Conqora Capital Partners to start a new service connecting the city centres of both cities.

A long-term lease agreement has been entered between the port authority and Conqora for the required access to Nanaimo Assembly Wharf, located immediately east of downtown. The agreement encompasses vessel berths, welcome terminals, parking, and passenger connectivity areas. Nanaimo’s existing Helijet terminal is also at this location.

The involvement of the First Nation recognizes their rights and lands and commits to providing the band and their members with benefits.

“Conqora is proud to be in partnership with the Nanaimo Port Authority and Snuneymuxw First Nation to bring this service to the local communities. We are working together with a common goal to affect positive impact and growth within the communities that this partnership will serve,” said Rupesh Amin, founder and CEO of Conqora Capital Partners, in a statement.

“Collaborating with the Snuneymuxw First Nation and Nanaimo Port Authority has been a great pleasure and I would like to sincerely thank them for their honesty, commitment, and shared vision for this service. Conqora is excited about the potential this partnership represents and what this high-speed passenger ferry service means for the future of the province.”

Conqora is a Toronto-based private equity investment firm, and according to its website, it focuses on real estate developments, transportation and digital infrastructure, renewable energy, and smart technology.

Details of the new service will be announced at a later date. The partnership has yet to announce a potential launch date for the service.

“After many years of talking about a fast passenger service coming to Nanaimo, it is with great pleasure that the Nanaimo Port Authority announces our unique partnership with Snuneymuxw First Nation and Conqora to bring this vital service to Nanaimo,” said Donna Hais, chair of the port authority, in a statement.

“Providing [the] infrastructure that connects Nanaimo to the rest of the world is one of the Port’s mandates, and we are excited to be able to connect people through this mode of transportation.”

This is the second time the port authority has signed such an agreement in recent years, after it reached a lease contract with Island Ferries, a different entity, in 2017 for a high-speed passenger ferry service from the same port-owned wharf location.

At the time, Island Ferries was also working with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and TransLink to lease an outer berth of Waterfront Station’s SeaBus terminal for its downtown Vancouver hub, which was an idea seriously considered by the public transit authority.

But Island Ferries’ launch was repeatedly delayed, and it suffered a substantial setback in June 2019, when it announced some of its major investors had pulled out. There has been no update from Island Ferries for more than two years.

Island Ferries previously stated it had secured contracts from a shipyard in Singapore to build two high-speed catamaran ferry vessels at a cost of $40 million. Each vessel would have a capacity of 376 passengers and a maximum speed of 40 knots (75 km/hr).

For its service plan, Island Ferries would make multiple round-trips daily, with each one-way trip boasting a travel time of just 68 minutes and a starting fare of only about $25.00 to enable the ferry to become a feasible option for commuters.

There have been a number of private sector attempts to launch high-speed passenger ferry services in BC’s South Coast over the decades, including the short-lived Harbour Lynx service. It went bankrupt in 2006 when its single 300-person capacity catamaran vessel suffered a fatal engine failure.

In early 2020, prior to the onset of the pandemic, V2V Vacations announced it would be closing its business, after not being able to sustain sufficient passenger levels for its luxury tourist-oriented, high-speed passenger ferry service from a berth at the Vancouver Convention Centre’s West Building to Victoria Inner Harbour. This service was first launched in 2017.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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