Construction begins on cable ferry

The first steel cut for the new cable ferry from Buckley Bay to Denman Island has been made.

An artist's rendering shows what the cable ferry will look like docked at the Denman West terminal.

An artist's rendering shows what the cable ferry will look like docked at the Denman West terminal.

The first steel cut for the new cable ferry running from Buckley Bay to Denman Island was held Wednesday at Seaspan in North Vancouver, marking the beginning of the next new vessel in the BC Ferries’ fleet.

“Today is an exciting day for BC Ferries as we officially begin construction of the cable ferry, which will enter service on our Buckley Bay – Denman Island route next summer,” BC Ferries’ president/CEO Mike Corrigan said in a news release. “We’re proud of our partnership with Seaspan and we know that they will construct an excellent ship for the millions of customers who will sail on her over the next 40 years.”

About 578 tonnes of steel will be used to construct the vessel, expected to take just under eight months. The project will employ 50 to 100 skilled workers.

The cable ferry will measure 78.5 metres. It will accommodate 50 vehicles, and 150 passengers and crew. It will operate with one drive cable and two guide cables. With a crossing of about 1,900 metres, the ferry will be the longest of its kind in the world, capable of speeds of 8.5 knots with a normal service speed of 7.5 knots.

According to BC Ferries, cost savings will exceed $80 million over the life of the project compared to the current service. Yearly savings of $2 million will help with fare affordability across the coastal ferry system. Labour costs are about half of a conventional ferry.

Denman and Hornby Island residents have voiced overwhelming opposition to the project, concerned about safety and reliability. Others are angry about job losses and crew reductions. A petition containing 1,800 signatures was given to Comox Valley MLA Don McRae, who was asked to deliver it to Transportation Minister Todd Stone.

The cable ferry will replace the Quinitsa that runs between Denman and the big island. A crew of six operates the Quinitsa at any one time while a cable ferry would require three people. The entire Quinitsa crew consists of about 30 employees, roughly half of whom live on Denman while the other half reside on Vancouver Island, BC Ferries says. Cutbacks could be through attrition, though some employees may be re-assigned to other routes.

The corporation says the cable ferry will provide the same level of service as the self-propelled vessel on the route; however, with no propellers and three times the fuel efficiency as conventional vessels, a cable ferry is a more sustainable and “greener” alternative to marine transportation,

Upgrades at the Buckley Bay and Denman Island West terminals will be complete by the end of the year.