B.C. Ferries’ July 3 announcement that it has awarded a $165 million contract to Polish shipbuilder Remontowa to construct three intermediate class replacement vessels demonstrates that Christy Clark and the Liberals have blown it, once again.
Not a lowest-bidder contract, the total $252 million project budget includes financing, project management and $51 million for federal taxes and import duties, much of which would not attach to domestic construction.
Following the 2012 federal government’s $8-billion naval shipbuilding contract with Vancouver’s Seaspan yards, Premier Clark said, “It won’t be just a matter of us building B.C. Ferries. We want to build ferries for countries all over the world here.” So what happened?
Seaspan was short-listed, but their naval contracts impacted their capacity to deliver within B.C. Ferries’ time frame. A modified delivery schedule might have worked. But Seaspan is not the only show in town.
George MacPherson, Shipyard General Workers’ Federation president, noted a consortium of B.C. yards could have been assembled to build the vessels, producing hundreds of good direct and spin-off B.C. jobs, all paying taxes and bolstering our economy. That’s how the Spirit Class vessels were built: with components produced in different B.C. yards and brought together for final assembly.
Because B.C. Ferries operates nominally at arm’s length from government, its primary concern is vessel cost, not the overall economic impact of its operation. That’s the problem with its government created mandate!
B.C. Ferries needs to be returned to a Crown corporation with a clear mandate to function both as a public transportation service and an economic generator for the entire province. That includes cheaper fares and better service to reinvigorate coastal and ferry dependent communities as well as building B.C. ships in B.C. yards employing B.C. workers paying B.C. taxes and spending their money in B.C.
Jef Keighley, chair
B.C. Ferry Coalition
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