BC Ferries is looking for shipbuilders interested in bidding on the contracts for five new “major” vessels.
Four of the ships will replace the Queen of Alberni, Queen of New Westminster, Queen of Cowichan, and Queen of Coquitlam, and the fifth will be a new addition vessel to the fleet “to address forecasted increases in vehicle and passenger traffic in the coming years.”
The ship building program is a key part of BC Ferries’ strategy for the eventual introduction of two-ferry service on the Langdale-Horseshoe Bay route.
The new ferries are expected to be ready to begin service on BC Ferries on the major routes between Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island in 2023.
Earlier this summer, BC Ferries officials told the Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee that having the new ships for the Island routes will free up the Queen of Oak Bay to run in tandem with the Queen of Surrey on the Langdale route in 2024.
The Queen of Surrey and Queen of Oak Bay are also due to be replaced by 2030 as part of the company’s long-range capital plan, which calls for the retirement of all the C-Class ferries.
In the release announcing the request for expressions of interest, BC Ferries said it plans a competitive bidding process “open to local, national and international shipyards, including consortiums.”
Ferries is looking for ships that will be roughly equal in capacity and amenities to the Coastal Class and Spirit Class ferries.
“These vessels will be quieter and have a lighter ecological footprint than any we have ever built,” said Mark Wilson, vice president of strategy and community engagement. “We will build ships that work in harmony with our planet and also deliver the speed, capacity and resilience coastal travellers want.”
The purchase of new ships will need the approval of the Ferries Commissioner, who is expected to make a decision in time for the contracts to be awarded by the end of 2019.