B.C.'s first hybrid electric ferries to arrive Saturday in Victoria

Two hybrid electric ferries are set to arrive at Ogden Point in Victoria, B.C., Saturday morning — the first of BC Ferries' new Island Class vessels.

The ships, each with a capacity to hold 47 vehicles and up to 450 passengers, use diesel fuel to generate electricity that is then stored in batteries, according to a statement from BC Ferries. 

The technology will "[bridge] the gap until shore charging infrastructure and funding becomes available in B.C.," the statement says. 

Tessa Humphries, spokesperson for BC Ferries, says the two vessels "will operate similar to a hybrid electric car. The battery [will be] used to optimize the energy performance." 

The technology is also designed for "full electric operation" in the future, and will lower emissions and reduce underwater noise.

Charging stations still in the works

Humphries said charging stations are not yet available at ferry terminals.

In September, BC Ferries President Mark Collins told CBC's On The Island that BC Ferries is working with BC Hydro to determine the best way to install charging equipment at terminals, so eventually the vessels can plug in and recharge between runs.

Collins said BC Ferries has invested more than $500 million in low-carbon technologies in the past five years and is aiming for a future where the company has a net zero carbon footprint.

The two new ferries cost $86.5 million. 

"There's no standard technology out there as of yet for this kind of plug-in technology. So, we're studying that closely and seeing which way this will go," Collins said.

The ferries mark "a major milestone in [the company's] plan to progressively lower emissions across the fleet," Collins said in a statement.

Submitted (BC Ferries)

Vessels to undergo extensive inspections

The ferries — built by Dutch shipbuilding company Damen — departed Constanta, Romania, on Nov. 20 on a semi-submersible transport vessel called Sun Rise. Humphries said the two ferries were floated into place and are then held down by large blocks. 

Once docked at the Breakwater at Ogden Point, Humphries said crews anticipate taking five full days to remove the blocks and unload the ferries. 

They'll then be floated to Victoria's Point Hope Maritime shipyard for extensive maintenance, including "recommissioning" the ships by starting up all systems and giving final inspections.

Riccardo Regosa, general manager at Point Hope Maritime, said in the statement that the company is proud to support the vessels, as per its service agreement with Damen, which has "resulted in capacity development and new specialized jobs" at the shipyard.

Once recommissioned, BC Ferries will take legal ownership of the ships and train crews to operate them before they go into service by mid-2020. The vessels will service routes between Powell River and Texada Island, and between Port McNeill, Alert Bay, and Sointula.

BC Ferries is expecting Damen to ship four more hybrid electric ships identical to the first two by 2022. These are planned to service routes between Campbell River and Quadra Island, and Nanaimo and Gabriola Island. 

The four additional ferries are being built on a $200-million contract.