BC Ferries receives RDN support for fleet electrification program

·2 min read

BC Ferries has a plan to fully electrify one-third its fleet over the next 11 years and is seeking local government support before it submits a request for funding to the federal government.

After a presentation by BC Ferries staff to the Regional District of Nanaimo board of directors Jan. 26, the board moved to write a letter of support, which BC Ferries will include in its funding application.

The Island Class Vessel Electrification Program is a phased approach that would see already in-service and to-be-built Island Class hybrid diesel-battery electric ships operating fully electric, provided funding can be secured for things like terminal modifications to enable rapid charging systems.

Two Island Class vessels are already operating as hybrids on the Powell River-Texada Island route and the Port McNeill-Alert Bay-Sointula Island route. Stage one of the two-stage program involves delivering four more vessels later this year or in early 2022 – two each to the Gabriola Island-Nanaimo Harbour route and the Campbell River-Quadra Island route. All of these vessels are under construction in the Netherlands.

A total of 18 terminals will require upgrades in order for the Island Class vessels to operate completely on batteries. Stage one would address half of those as well as modifications to the six Netherlands-built vessels for a total price tag of $150 million. BC Ferries needs 50% of that to come from outside the corporation, primarily from the federal government, Jamie Marshall, BC Ferries’ vice president of business development and innovation, told the RDN board.

“We’ve got support in principal from many industry partners, from a lot of associations, from different councils and chambers, so we’re going with a package to the federal government for funding,” he said. The Sounder asked BC Ferries for the exact amount they will be requesting from the federal government, but it was not provided.

The preliminary cost estimate for stage 2 is $1.04 billion and includes constructing seven additional Island Class battery-electric vessels, these ones in Canada, over a six- to eight-year timeline.

“On the larger package we’re still in the conceptual phase,” Marshall said. “We really have to clearly define that and where exactly that fits into our capital plan.”

BC Ferries says the 13 vessels, once in service, will remove 28,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent out of their operations, equal to taking 6,000 vehicles off the road.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder