Two new vessels in the BC Ferries fleet were splashed with a small coat of champagne on Wednesday afternoon as they were officially christened with their new names.
The Island Discovery and Island Aurora vessels are new hybrid ships scheduled to sail the Powell River-Texada Island and Port McNeill-Alert Bay-Sointula routes, respectively. They were manufactured in Romania and made their way to Victoria via a two-month journey.
Island Discovery will replace the 59-year-old North Island Princess, which will be decommissioned from the fleet, while Island Aurora will replace Quadra Queen II, which will be retained as a relief vessel.
Both ships are identical, and as Island Class ferries can carry 47 vehicles and more than 300 passengers.
They are also the quietest ships in the fleet, thanks to the hybrid technology on board that allow them to run on diesel and electric. Presently they will run on 20 per cent battery, with a long term plan of being 100 per cent battery.
“I like to think of these as electric ships with a temporary hybrid system,” said Mark Collins, BC Ferries president and CEO. “We will go full electric just as soon as the shore side of infrastructure is complete.”
This will likely be five to 10 years.
F0our more identical hybrid Island Class vessels, each with a price tag of $40 million, will be ordered in the near-future as well.
While the Island Class vessels serve smaller routes, BC Ferries plans on on also bringing in hybrid vessels for its larger routes, such as the Swartz-Bay Tsawwassan routes.
“We’re in the process right now of studying the technical concepts that will go into our next new class of ships on major class vessels, about the size of the spirit class,” Collins said. “For those, certainly hybrid technology will be used to reduce noise, reduce fuel consumption and reduce greenhouse gasses.”
Larger hybrid vessels are anticipated to join the fleet in four years.
Island Aurora and Island Discovery are anticipated to begin operating in mid-May.