B.C. Ferries plans ship refits, terminal upgrade in Port McNeill

Source: Times Colonist
Author: Carla Wilson
Date: July 18, 2014

This year, 20 B.C. ferries are getting refits to keep them ship-shape and the Port McNeill terminal on northeast Vancouver Island is undergoing a $13-million upgrade.

These are among projects within B.C. Ferries’ forecast $226.6-million capital plan for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

Some of the biggest works include a three-quarter life upgrade starting this fall on the 139-metre-long Queen of Oak Bay, built in 1981. A midlife upgrade begins after Christmas on the 96-metre-long Queen of Capilano, built in 1991.

“Those are our two largest capital projects within the fleet for this fiscal year,” said Mark Wilson, Ferries’ vice-president of engineering.

Costs are not yet known because the tender process has yet to close, he said.

Ferries has 35 vessels with different drydocking cycles depending on their marine classification, meaning that there are more refits in some years than others.

Major overhauls and inspections are planned for eight vessels this fiscal year. Also, Seaspan Marine is building a $15-million cable ferry to run between Denman and Hornby islands, off the Island’s east coast.

Ferries has 45 terminals. “We have a fairly robust capital plan for maintaining, renewing, replacing that side of the business,” Wilson said.

In Port McNeill, from which the ferry service goes to Sointula and Alert Bay, work is starting on the project to take out some of the older infrastructure. A new wider trestle and loading ramp will improve loading and unloading, Ferries said. A new waiting room, and utility building are also going in. The berth will be closed Oct. 1-28. A water taxi and a tug and barge will be in service temporarily.

As well, the Sointula berth on Malcolm Island is being rebuilt, a dolphin is being replaced at Departure Bay at Nanaimo, and new paving and drainage are going in at Prince Rupert.

Ferries is also looking at midlife upgrades to the two Spirit-class vessels, each 167.5 metres long and built in the 1990s. The Queen of Vancouver Island and the Queen of British Columbia serve Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen. Upgrades for both vessels must still be approved by Ferries’ board of directors and by the B.C. Ferry Commissioner.

If approved by late fall, work would start on the Spirit of Vancouver in September 2016 and be finished by May 2017, Wilson said.

Upgrades on the Spirit of British Columbia would begin in fall 2017 and be completed in May 2018. Work would be scheduled to ensure these two big ferries are in service during busy summer months, he said.

A call for expressions of interest for dual-fuel engines and related systems closed this week. Ferries did not reveal how many submissions it received. Seaspan Marine, owner of Victoria Shipyards, Vancouver Shipyards and Vancouver Drydock, is interested in the work, a company spokesman said.

The complete package of work for the Spirit-class vessels is similar to a design-build approach, where the industry and Ferries work together on engineering and procurement of potential engines for a dual-fuel system, to run mainly on liquefied natural gas, a cleaner fuel than diesel.

These midlife upgrades are significant projects, carried out to keep the Spirit vessels’ systems up to date and keep the ferries running for another 20 years.

A further $25 million is to be spent on information technology systems and other improvements for Ferries’ business needs this year. This includes upgrading the website software and replacing its payroll system.

B.C. Ferries earlier announced that a shipyard in Poland will build three 105-metre-long, intermediate-class ferries. They will also be dual-fuel ships, to run mainly on LNG.


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