BC Ferries awarded contracts for the building of 4 more energy-efficient "Island Class" ferries, scheduled to join the 2 that are due to enter service in 2020.
The Netherlands' Damen Shipyards Group will build the new vessels, BC Ferries announced in a news release. The company also built the first 2 ships.
As part of the contract, Damen is due to continue to work with Point Hope Shipyards (Victoria) which will provide local warranty and technical support for the new ferries. The budget for the project is around US$200 million, BC Ferries revealed.
Island Class ferries are specially designed to be completely battery-powered. However, current charging technology isn't sufficient enough to make electricity available in the quantities that are required to operate them. Once charging technology matures, the ships will be operated on electricity only but until then, they'll be run as diesel hybrids.
The first couple of Island Class ships completed sea trials and are due for delivery to Victoria in January next year. They are scheduled to start operation on Port McNeill-Alert Bay-Sointula Island and Powell River-Texada Island routes by the middle of 2020.
The next 4 ships in the class are slated for use on Nanaimo Harbour-Gabriola Island and Campbell River-Quadra Island routes - with 2 vessels on each route - by 2022. In each case, the 2 Island Class ferries will be replacing one bigger ship, meaning more frequent service as well as increased passenger capacity per hour, BC Ferries said.
Island Class ferries carry up to 450 passengers and crew, and at least 47 vehicles depending on their configuration.