BC Ferries will be building up to five new ferries to replace four existing vessels. The new ships are being specified to deliver enhanced environmental sustainability and offer flexibility to meet changing travel demands into the future. BC Ferries expects the new ferries to enter service in the mid 2020s.
They will potentially add capacity to the Metro Vancouver – Vancouver Island routes and replace the Queen of New Westminster, Queen of Alberni, Queen of Coquitlam and Queen of Cowichan that currently serve those routes.
BC Ferries says one of their top priorities in designing these new ferries is finding ways to reduce emissions. The company has already gained considerable expertise with Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) powered ferries. In 2018, the major mid-life upgrade of one of its two largest vessels, the 167-metre Spirit-class Spirit of British Columbia, was completed, including conversion to a dual-fuel LNG system.
Mark Collins, BC Ferries President and Chief Executive Officer, highlighted the benefits of using LNG at the 2019 Shippax Ferry Conference this week, telling delegates the second Spirit class vessel, Spirit of Vancouver Island, has completed its dual-fuel LNG system retrofit and is on its way back to Vancouver from the shipyard in Gdansk, Poland. “The payback is 3.5 years which is a great number for us, and we get a cleaner ship to boot”, Collins enthused. He added that the overabundance of LNG in Canada made the price of LNG fuel attractive.
BC Ferries also has three natural gas powered Salish Class vessels.
Dual-fuel engines that rely mainly on LNG are being considered for the five new ferries; they significantly reduce emissions of CO2 and NOx and eliminate emissions of particulate matter and SOx. The company is also considering future adaptations that might include batteries for a hybrid form of propulsion.
BC Ferries is working to identify the operational needs around size and capacity, speed and maneuverability, space allotments and other technological requirements. “One of the complexities of designing a new ferry is working within weight, space and cost restrictions,” said Collins. “This means we need to carefully think through each aspect of the design.”
The acquisition of the ships is a major capital expenditure that requires the approval of the BC Ferries Commissioner under Section 55 of the Coastal Ferry Act. Subject to a favourable decision, BC Ferries expects to award a contract to build these vessels next year.