The Buckley Bay — Denman Island cable ferry is expected to be up and running late this summer, says BC Ferries. As opposed to a crew of six that operates the self-propelled Quinitsa, three people will be aboard the new vessel, which will be the longest of its kind in the world.
The corporation expects the cable ferry will save more than $80 million over 40 years.
“The $2 million in operational savings per year will come from a reduction in the labour component, a reduction in fuel savings because there’ll be a much smaller fuel consumption, and then a reduction in the maintenance,” said Mark Wilson, BC Ferries’ vice-president of engineering. “It’s a simpler vessel than a conventional ferry to maintain.”
Construction of the 78.5 metre cable ferry is nearing completion at Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards in North Vancouver. The vessel will be towed to its new route late-May and attached into the cable system.
It will operate with one drive cable and two guide cables, which will be strung in late-April. They will undergo a series of tests beforehand. Once the ferry is in place, there will be sea trials and cable change-outs to ensure the system meets operational and safety requirements. In June and July, crews will undergo training to prepare for passenger and vehicle service.
New berths have been built at Buckley Bay and Denman. Ruskin Construction and Vancouver Pile Driving have completed marine structures and “upland construction” to improve layouts for loading and unloading vehicles.
In recent years, Denman and Hornby Island residents have voiced opposition to the project, concerned about safety and reliability. Others are angry about job losses and crew reductions.
“I recognize there’s been some opposition and concern, but I think once we’re in service and this settles down and we prove that we do exactly what we say we’re going to do at BC Ferries, that there is going to be some positive interest around it about being the longest cable ferry in world,” Wilson said. “I think that even some people will come to ride it and see it because of that. Irrespective of salt water or fresh water, it’s the longest cable ferry in the world.”
He feels the $2 million yearly savings will help reduce upward pressure on fares.
“From my perspective of why I think there is some controversy or concern around the residents, they do have a very, very good ship and a very, very reliable service,” Wilson said.
The Quinitsa will switch to a relief role for other vessels around the fleet. It could eventually be re-deployed.
Wilson said it takes about 30 employees, full-time and casual, to crew the Quinitsa year-round.
“It’s not that we’re losing employees. Over half of that approximate crew of 30 came from other point of assemblies in our staffing pool, and we’re just redeploying them elsewhere. Less than half of the actual crew of the Quinitsa reside on Denman or Hornby Island. We anticipate no layoffs. We’ve been working with our union and the collective agreement of our employees to do everything that we can.”
Crossing time will be about the same.
The cable ferry is the first of four new vessels the company will introduce into service as part of a vessel replacement program. Three others are under construction in Poland.
“The first vessel out of that comes to Little River, Comox in fall of 2016,” Wilson said. “It’s been a few years since we’ve built a new vessel. We have several vessels to build over the next 10 to 15 years.”