Denman cable ferry going ahead in spite of islanders’ protests

Despite "overwhelming" opposition to a cable ferry from Denman Island residents, BC Ferries says the vessel will be running in two years.

Despite “overwhelming” opposition to the idea of a cable ferry from Denman Island residents, BC Ferries says the new vessel will be up and running in two years.

“Certainly on Denman there’s been overwhelming apprehension of, and opposition to, the cable ferry,” says Denman-Hornby Ferry Advisory Committee chair Tony Law. “I think people feel like the present service is working well, you know, why mess with it, particularly when there isn’t a cable ferry at this length operating anywhere else in the world — so they feel like there’s some degree of risk and uncertainty.”

BC Ferries has been studying feasibility of a cable ferry on the route between Denman Island West and Buckley Bay on Vancover Island for four years, and the company says users can expect a cable ferry to replace the traditional vessel by fall of 2014.

BC Ferries president and CEO Mike Corrigan says the company listened to Islanders’ concerns and he’s sure the cable ferry will work for the route.

“We went out and did significantly more engineering analysis and testing before we made the final decision,” says Corrigan. “I’m completely confident that we can provide the same level of service from a safety and operational liability standpoint as we do with the current ferry.”

The new vessel will hold 50 cars, as the current vessel does. BC Ferries will build two new docks designed for the cable ferry, and it expects to finish the tender process for construction of the vessel and docks by this summer.

BC Ferries cites major cost savings as a big reason for the change — $19 million could be saved over the life of the assets calculated on discounted net present value basis. Lower fuel costs, maintenance costs, labour costs and operating costs are expected.

“That means that fares are going to be $19 million less than they otherwise would be,” says Corrigan, while acknowledging any savings would be spread across the entire BC Ferries system. “If we can provide an equivalent level of service at $19 million in savings, we should be doing it.”

However, many Denman Islanders are concerned that the level of service may not be the same, especially during stormy weather.

Corrigan says BC Ferries conducted further research on weather in the area because of these concerns. He notes the company collected one year worth of its own weather data, and studied 40 years of weather data overall.

“Basically, we designed the ferry to a condition that’s never existed from a weather standpoint yet in Baynes Sound,” he says, adding the cable ferry will be able to operate in 55 knots of sustained windspeed. “If we were ever to get above 55 knots, the traditional ferry that’s there right now wouldn’t be sailing either.”

Job loss is another major concern, according to Law.

The current ferry operates with six crew on board at a time but the cable ferry would likely operate with just three, though Corrigan notes Transport Canada has the final say on the numbers.

“Some of them would have to relocate but they wouldn’t lose their jobs, and there’s a number of employees, as I understand it, are getting ready to retire, and we would work with them on a retirement plan,” says Corrigan.

BC Ferries was going to hire a contractor to provide the service but decided against it, so it will still be operated by BC Ferries.

The current dock at Buckley Bay will be kept for emergency use, but after about five years the current dock on the Denman side is expected to come down due to age; a traditional ferry won’t be able to dock on the Denman side after the current dock is gone.

Law points out that five years gives time for any growing pains with the cable ferry to surface before a traditional vessel cannot be docked on Denman. But he also says future ferry refits — which usually see a temporary ferry on the route — are a “bit of a worry.”

“It would be hard for a conventional vessel to replace the cable ferry once the new docks are in place,” he says. “That is a concern, you know, what’ll happen when those refits take place, particularly for Denman because there’s a lot of people that commute.”

Refit work on the ferry is expected to happen every 10 years instead of every four as is the case now, and Corrigan says when that happens, a traditional vehicle vessel will run from Buckley Bay all the way around the south tip of Denman Island to the East dock on the island. He says foot passenger service would likely be offered on the regular route during refits.

BC Ferries representatives will be at the Denman Island Seniors Hall from 7 to 9 p.m. for a public information meeting this Thursday.

Law says he believes BC Ferries was being “squeezed” on both sides on the issue of the cable ferry.

“I think BC Ferries is in a squeeze because on the one hand they’re hearing resistance to innovations from Hornby and Denman Islanders, but on the other hand they’re really being squeezed by the Province and the (BC Ferry) Commissioner to look at innovations and savings,” he says.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A WestJet flight on the runway leaving Comox. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Aviation company seeks contracted employees to fill former WestJet roles at YQQ

Menzies Aviation from Edinburgh Park, Scotland, operates in 34 countries across the world

A cougar was spotted Monday near Queneesh Elementary. (WildSafe BC photo)
Cougar sighted Monday near Courtenay school

Conservation officers are warning the public to avoid the wooded areas around… Continue reading

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
SD71 to address COVID-19 exposures with virtual town hall

The meeting is set for Thursday, March 4

Courtenay Elementary is the latest school on a growing list that has COVID-19 exposures. Google Maps photo
Courtenay Elementary latest school on growing list of COVID-19 exposures

Exposure dates at the school on McPhee Avenue are Feb. 22, 23 and 24

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Tofino Resort and Marina has temporarily shut down after several staff members tested positive for COVID-19. (Nora O’Malley photo)
COVID-19 confirmed at Tofino Resort and Marina

Resort apologizes to Hesquiaht First Nation for Valentine’s Day boating incident.

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hills using a homemade trip camera. Vancouver Island is home to approximately 800 cougars, which makes up about a quarter of the total population in B.C. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hill using a homemade trip camera. Schroyen presents Animal Signs: The Essence of Animal Communication on Nov. 30. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Declining Vancouver Island cougar populations linked to wolves

Large carnivore specialist says human development still plays biggest role on cougar numbers

Most Read