$6M pontoon arrives in Langdale, berth upgrade enters final phase

BC Ferries

The biggest component of the new Berth 1 at the Langdale ferry terminal arrived March 20, after a two-day journey up Georgia Strait.

The pontoon, which is 15 metres wide, 116 metres long (50 ft. x 380 ft.), and weighs just over 4,100 tonnes (4,500 tons), was built in Victoria by a consortium of more than a dozen companies led by United Engineering at a cost of $6 million.

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It took more than 100 workers nine months to build the pontoon, which comes complete with electrical wiring, piping, fencing and large bumpers for the ferries to rest against while in dock.

The dock section for the Gambier-Keats vessel Stormaway and the public float will attach to the new pontoon, and BC Ferries will be adding a sheltered waiting area for Stormaway passengers once all the pieces are in place.

Dave Bukovec, general manager of United Engin-eering, said in a statement released when the pontoon was being readied for towing from Victoria that the project could lead to more work with BC Ferries.

“The pontoon is an impressive, quality structure which reflects the breadth of skills and entrepreneurial capacity that we have here in Victoria to meet the needs of BC Ferries,” he said.

BC Ferries’ vice president of engineering Mark Wilson said, “This pontoon is a shining example of local innovative thinking and quality craftsmanship and will continue to enable BC Ferries to embark on renewing our vast terminal networks in an efficient and reliable manner.”

With the pontoon now on site, the Berth 1 upgrade remains on track for completion by April 7, BC Ferries said. It’s the first major project under a master plan to rebuild Langdale that was developed in 2013. Other projects in the master plan for this year include upgrades to the terminal buildings and pedestrian walkway. The plan also calls for construction of a foot passenger gangway similar to the ones used in Horseshoe Bay and new waiting lounge in 2018.

BC Ferries has said in the past that it hopes to get federal infrastructure funding for the work at Langdale and other terminals.

March 20 also marked the first day of a new modified schedule because the Queen of Surrey is in for a refit, and the Island Sky will be on the Langdale to Horseshoe Bay route with the Queen of Coquitlam.

Since the construction work started in January, the Surrey and Coquitlam have been running on an hourly schedule.

According to BC Ferries, “the Island Sky will begin operating each day with a 6 a.m. departure from Horseshoe Bay terminal, with subsequent departures approximately every 65 minutes from alternating terminals throughout the day.” 

But, the schedule change did not get off to a smooth start. There were overloads on morning sailings March 20, and by late Monday afternoon the Coquitlam was more than an hour behind schedule and the Island Sky was around 50 minutes behind because of what BC Ferries described as operational delays, cumulative delays, and peak demand. Both ferries also experienced “traffic delays” on March 21.

Deborah Marshall of BC Ferries said there have been a couple of logistical hiccups, including an issue with the catering truck, as well as an increase in traffic – and because the Island Sky is smaller, that has made overloads more likely. She also said the construction crews working on Berth 1 asked BC Ferries to have the ships slow down coming into the terminal to minimize wave action while they secure the new pontoon. Marshall said they expected to keep the “slow bell” procedure in place most of the week.

“We have called an extra deckhand onto the Island Sky, so we can get tighter loads with the vehicle, so hopefully that will help with the [over]loads as well,” Marshall said.

The vessel and schedule changes also affect the Earls Cove to Saltery Bay run, where the Bowen Queen replaced the Island Sky and BC Ferries added extra runs mid-day.

BC Ferries plans to resume its usual spring shoulder season schedule, with a single C-class vessel, on April 7.

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