BC Ferries expects its first-ever cable ferry will be running by the summer of 2015 on the route between Vancouver Island and Denman Island.
BC Ferry Commissioner Gord Macatee approved last week BC Ferries’ application for a capital expenditure needed to move forward with the project.
The approval came with five conditions — viewable at www.bcferrycommission.com — which BC Ferries is confident it can meet, according to spokesperson Deborah Marshall.
“We have designed the cable ferry and now that the commissioner has ruled on our Section 55 application, we are negotiating with a shipyard to build the cable ferry,” continues Marshall. “We expect to make an announcement about a contract award for the cable ferry in the next few weeks.”
She said the terminal infrastructure job will be tendered soon, too, and project completion is expected in summer, 2015.
Denman and Hornby Island residents have voiced overwhelming opposition to the project since it was first announced years ago. Sixty-seven submissions from the public were received by the commissioner, and he acknowledged the resident opposition, but said the commission is mandated to consider the interests of all ferry users and taxpayers in the province, as well as the financial sustainability of BC Ferries.
“We conclude that the cable ferry, among the options considered, is the lowest cost option, compared to a traditional vessel,” said Macatee, as he noted replacing the traditional vessel (Quinista) with a cable ferry is projected to save $2 million per year in operating costs over the 40-year life of the vessel.
According to a news release from the commission, independent experts looked over BC Ferries’ design and financial analysis, and a naval architect concluded the design is sound and vessel will be as reliable as the Quinista.
The commissioner would not say how much the cable ferry will cost to build, as releasing that information before the procurement process is complete could put BC Ferries at a disadvantage.
Macatee pointed out that while a cable ferry is new and innovative for BC Ferries — this will be the longest saltwater cable ferry in the world — there are 65 cable ferries in Canada.
“They’re used in both salt and fresh water and they’re used even in locations where ice conditions are a consideration,” he said, adding this ferry has three cables, too, while many have just one.
Hornby resident and past Hornby Ferry senior master Pete Kimmerly is surprised the commissioner gave the project the green light, noting he still has serious concerns around the safety and reliability of a cable ferry being used on that route.
“I’m just flabbergasted because the evidence was so, so powerful to reject (the application), and he didn’t,” said Kimmerly, who has a website at www.sendintheclowns.info, outlining concerns around technical feasibility. “I believe that they’re sacrificing reliability. They’re bottom-line thinking at the expense of common sense.”
Kimmerly said Friday he will speak to a lawyer about the possibility of a judicial review of the commissioner’s decision.
Denman resident and Denman ferry worker Laura Pope also remains steadfast in her safety- and reliability-related concerns.
“It’s really very sad (Denman Island) will still be stuck with an inferior system and that the island, despite trying its very hard hardest, still wasn’t able to get what it really needed,” said Pope, who organized a petition to Transportation Minister Todd Stone, and handed 1,800 signatures over the Comox Valley MLA Don McRae in the fall to pass along to Stone.
“It was never acknowledged in any way,” she said. “Eighteen hundred signatures is basically the populations of both Denman and Hornby put together, so I would say that it’s pretty darn close to 100 per cent (of residents opposed).”