New ferry contract buoys spirits at B.C.'s shipyards
By Amy Dove, Victoria News, Jul 12 2006
Construction of $45.5-million vessel slated to begin in 2008 Advocates of local shipyards have something to smile about with the recent confirmation that Vancouver Shipyards will be responsible for building B.C.'s newest ferry.
The shipyard is contracted to build a new 125-car ferry, classed as an intermediate size vessel. Construction is slated to begin later this year with completion scheduled for 2008 on the $45.5 million project. The 100-metre vessel will replace the 46-year-old Queen of Tsawwassen. The new vessel will initially sail on the Earls Cove-Saltery Bay route on the Sunshine Coast.
"(The Queen of Tsawwassen) served us well but it's going to get past its useful life," said Deborah Marshall, BC Ferries director of communications. The vessel was one of the fleet's original ships, along with the Queen of Sidney, when the service began in 1960. The new ship, which will include a passenger lounge and snack bar, can carry up to 600 people.
The ship will also have a new state-of-the-art lifesaving system. Similar to a new system on the Queen of Nanaimo, the Australian life-raft system uses huge slides to efficiently move people off the boats and onto rafts below, Marshall explained. Fourteen shipyards competed for the contract last year with two Canadian and one international company being short-listed. Washington Marine Group - which operates both the Victoria and Vancouver shipyards - was the successful bidder.
"We are very proud to build this ship here in British Columbia," Marshall said. In its efforts to keep costs down, the company isn't always able to build ships in B.C., she noted. "If the cost or our ships are lower then in turn we don't have to pass on higher costs to our customers," Marshall said.
Over the next five years, BC Ferries will add eight new vessels, costing $1 billion in total. The contracts to build three of those vessels were awarded to a German company in 2004. The Vancouver Shipyards vessel will mark the fourth, while BC Ferries is still looking to replace the Queen of the North, which sank March 22, and to build two additional ships for the northern routes.
The latest contract is welcome news for the Shipyard General Worker's Federation, said president George MacPherson. "It is definitely a step in the right direction and there is no question it is welcome news, but it is a small piece of what has gone out there," he said, adding it makes no economic sense to send that amount of money out of province when the work can be done locally. If the industry is not supported now, there will be no one able to repair or build B.C. Ferries five or 10 years down the road, he said.
"It is a disservice to the country and the industry the way they are going about it," he said of international contracts. Building the B.C. vessels on home soil is important, said Maurine Karagianis, Esquimalt-Metchosin MLA. "I believe that it should be part of their terms of reference, at all times, that B.C. companies get an opportunity to bid on that business," Karagianis said. "It's no surprise that they would be going to the (local) industry for that kind of vessel," she said, adding that local shipbuilders are highly skilled.
This is an industry that helped build this country and the long-standing tradition of Canadian shipbuilding should be honoured, MacPherson said. The Victoria and Vancouver shipyards employ more than 1,000 trades people from around the province, with 15,000 sub-contractors brought in for different projects. The new ferry will be one of the larger vessels to be built at the shipyard, said Rollie Webb, Washington Marine Group Shipyards president. "We are very glad to have the contract - it has been quite a long time coming," Webb said of the two-year process to win the bid.
The last time BC Ferries contracted the local shipyard to build a ship was in the early 1990s.
For the official press release with a picture of the new boat, click here. To me, the boat looks very similar to the Queen of Capilano, but slightly bigger. Good to hear the company went local this time, but I think the shipyard will quickly be operating at capacity very shortly.