BC Ferries treated the media to a sneak preview Monday of the new cable ferry, which is nearly ready to start serving the public.
After further crew training and some ‘soft sailings’ with a few passengers and vehicles, regular service between Buckley Bay and Denman Island is expected early-February.
The 78.5 metre Baynes Sound Connector will sail the same schedule as the self-propelled Quinitsa. It is capable of carrying 50 vehicles and 150 passengers.
A heated indoor area can seat 60 passengers and an outdoor, sheltered area 30 passengers. There is also a pet area.
With a crossing of about 1,900 metres, it will be the longest cable ferry in the world.
“The ride of the vessel I think is better than we predicted,” said Mark Wilson, BC Ferries’ vice-president of engineering.
Wilson said fuel consumption is about 55 per cent better than the Quinitsa, which will become a relief vessel. Labour and maintenance costs are also cheaper.
The cable ferry is expected to save about $1.75 million a year, or $70 million over its 40-year projected lifespan.
“That really helps to keep the fares low and to keep upward pressure on fares down,” said Capt. Jamie Marshall, BC Ferries’ vice-president of fleet operations.
The cable ferry will be operated by a crew of four.
In recent years, Denman and Hornby Island residents had voiced opposition to the project, concerned about safety and reliability. Others were angry about job losses and crew reductions.
“There was no job loss,” Marshall said. “Some people took retirement or severance, and all the people were accommodated.”