Sonia: the new queen of the North

Even with the decision to build a new ship in Germany for the northern route, BC Ferries has a service gap to fill until the new ship is ready. Enter the Sonia. See pictures here. From what I can research in short time, it looks like the ship was built for Spanish ferry operator Balearia for its Barcelona-Ibiza (Sant Antoni) run.

It has been operating as a charter on a reported $24,000 day rate in Trinidad and Tobago starting early 2005. The Sonia works alongside "The Cat", Canada's Bay Ferries High speed catamaran on the ferry run between Trinidad and Tobago .

Acording to the Balearia website here are the ship's particulars (in its configuration for them):

Length: 111 m
Beam: 20 m
Maximum speed: 21 knots
Passengers:: 750
Hold capacity: : 600 m.l. de carga

Denis Solomon has interesting insight on the operation in Trinidad, definately not a glowing review of the operation.

Heres and article on hints of the Sonia coming to BC from the Vancouver Province.

B.C. Ferries gets its shipWORST-KEPT SECRET: Company won't confirm it's bought 'Sonia' Ian Bailey, The Province; with a file from Staff Reporter Christina MontgomeryPublished: Sunday, August 06, 2006
B.C. Ferries appears to have found a replacement for the sunken Queen of the North -- the Sonia, a two-year-old ferry that sailed between Trinidad and Tobago until this spring.
While the company declined to comment on the purchase yesterday, CEO David Hahn has referred recently to his new "European" ferry as the "worst-kept secret on the coast."
The Sonia is managed by TTT Tomasos Transport & Tourism, part of Italy's Tomasos Group, which has posted word of the sale on its website. The sale price is not listed.
A Swedish shipping database also lists the Sonia as "sold to B.C. Ferries Canada" for "delivery in the autumn." It says the ferry was renamed Sonia X this month.
Hahn has said publicly that the new ferry is just years old and that delivery is expected in September.
"It's got capacity for vehicles, it's got great capacity for passengers, it's got great speed," he said.
The 117-metre Sonia, built in 2004, carries 1,200 passengers and crew and 220 vehicles and has a speed of 22 knots. It has more cabins than the Queen of Prince Rupert now serving the north.
It also has two stern doors but not a bow door, unlike most ferries in the provincial fleet.
Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall would only say yesterday that sale talks are "ongoing."
Current time-charter arrangements for the ferry are believed to be delaying the final sale. More than a dozen Ferries personnel, including engineers from the North, are believed to be working on the Sonia now in Europe, where it was moved this spring. Marshall did not comment on either of those matters.
Word of the new ferry has been eagerly anticipated along the coast, whose residents and tourist operators suffered massive service losses and disruptions when the North sank March 22.
Port Hardy Mayor Hank Bood, whose town would serve as one end of the Sonia's Hardy-Prince Rupert run, told The Province his sources have confirmed the Sonia is vessel being purchased.
"It was critical B.C. Ferries find something to the standard of the Queen of the North -- and it's my understanding that's going to be the case," Bood said.
Capt. David Badior, president of the ships' officers component of the B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers Union, said the union is also interested in a resolution so they can begin determining how to train crew for the new vessel.
It is unclear how much work must be done to have the ferry meet both Canadian standards and the physical requirements of B.C.'s docks.
George MacPherson, president of the Shipyard General Workers Federation, said his union wants the refit work -- rumoured to be worth between $10 and $30 million -- done in B.C.
-- with a file from Staff Reporter Christina Montgomery