Two New Hybrid BC Ferries in Victoria
BC Ferries excitedly unveiled two identical and brand new Island Class vessels mid-January – the first-ever hybrid diesel-electric vessels to join their fleet. Christened as the Island Discovery and the Island Aurora, the vessels will operate with just 20 percent electricity and in time, function completely by the battery. Aiming to reduce underwater noise and emissions, the introduction of both vessels is seen as BC Ferries’ strong commitment to environmental stewardship.
Having arrived at Ogden Point, then transported by tug to Point Hope Maritime, BC Ferries will focus on inspections and crew training, aiming to have the vessels fully operational by mid-May. The Island Discovery will service Powell River – Texada, replacing the 59-year-old North Island Princess. And, the Island Aurora will service Port McNeill – Alert Bay – Sointule, replacing the Quadra Queen II.
Though capable of solely electric operation, the shoreside infrastructure required to do so is still five to ten years away. Even still the hybrid-diesel electric system improves efficiency and reduces emissions during the interim operations. And, it’s not just the hybrid fuel system improving previous environmental concerns, new designs feature like the low friction and biofouling resistant hull further reduce fuel consumption.
The Construction and Cost
Constructed by Dutch shipbuilder, Damen Shipyards Group, the Island Discovery and the Island Aurora came with a price tag of 86.5 million. Measuring 81 meters in length with the ability to transport 47 cars and roughly 300 passengers, the vessels were transported to Victoria from Romania, by a semi-submersible heavy-lift vessel.
While the primary goal of the Island Class ferries is likely to reduce operational costs for BC Ferries, these vessels provide passenger and environmental benefits too. Moving at 14 knots, these two vessels are faster than both vessels they’ve replaced. The reduction of underwater noise (resulting from the twin propellers and the isolated machinery) and emissions are seen as a step in protecting endangered killer whales along with other marine life. And, design features like LED lighting, and the low friction and biofouling resistant hull coating further reduce energy consumption.
By 2022, four new Island Class ferries (already on order via Damen Shipyards) will join the BC Ferries fleet. Two of these ferries will service Campbell River – Quadra Island, with the other two servicing Nanaimo Harbour – Gabriola Island. The introduction of soon-to-be six identical vessels will help (according to BC Ferries) to improve resiliency in their fleet by moving vessels around during repairs, providing a consistent travel experience for their customers, and reducing logistical, operational, training and maintenance costs.
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