BC Ferries has applied to the BC Ferry Commissioner to utilize funds from the “Use of Carbon Reduction Investment Account (“CRIA”)” towards purchasing four more Island Class vessels, and Terminal Electrification Program.
Before accessing funds from the CRIA, BC Ferries must submit a plan for Commissioners’ approval for the use of the funds.
According to the plan, BC Ferries will construct and deliver into service four plug-in hybrid Island class vessels that will be able to operate exclusively in battery-electric mode, in addition to electrical upgrades for rapid charging from ashore at four terminal on the two routes connecting Nanaimo Harbour and Gabriola Island (route 19 – two vessels) and Campbell River and Quadra Island (route 23 – two vessels).
Estimates of the cost of the program are not included in the documentation provided publicly.
The cost applied for includes the full cost of all terminal electrification infrastructure, as well as the estimated premium cost for including vessel electrification equipment into the new vessels during their build.
BC Ferries says it has identified external opportunities – separate from the CRIA – to partially offset electrification costs.
BC Ferries states the introduction of the new vessels on Routes 19 and 23 will free up existing vessels for deployment elsewhere.
The company says BC Ferries has seen a rebound in traffic levels since the downturn during the COVID-19 pandemic and Fiscal 2023 saw the highest total vehicle traffic in the Company’s 63-year history.
With this, BC Ferries says the system capacity is constrained such that current and modelled future forecast demand cannot be addressed with existing assets.
Deploying existing Island Class vessels will help to address the capacity issues on the routes connecting Vesuvius Bay and Crofton (Route 6), Denman Island and Hornby Island (Route 22), and Quadra Island and Cortes Island (Route 24), while providing needed refit relief to enable continuing operations year-round.
In addition, the vessels currently operating on Routes 22 and 24 are approaching the end of their useful operating lives, and their continued service presents increasing challenges in terms of vessel maintenance and reliability.
BC Ferries says bringing on four more Island Class vessels will enable the Company to continue ongoing fleet renewal and to pursue operational resilience through, “the strategic aim of operating a limited number of classes of identical, standardized and interoperable vessels.”
BC Ferries says it is also committed to environmental sustainability and to implementing solutions in support of carbon reduction targets.
It claims delivery of new electrified vessels provides an opportunity to implement “zero emissions” operations on Routes 19 and 23 through electrification, allowing the vessels to operate continually on clean, renewable hydro electricity.