BC Ferries’ CEO and president Mark Collins, and manager of public affairs, Darin Guenette, were in Prince Rupert on Jan. 29-30 to present to the business community and gain feedback. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

BC Ferries’ president on LNG and northern routes

CEO Mark Collins to speak with Prince Rupert’s business community

On the North Coast and Central Coasts, the marine highway is a lifeline for many people, and for tourists it offers access to the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii.

BC Ferries’ president and CEO, Mark Collins travelled to Prince Rupert on Jan. 29, to speak to the business community about where his company is heading, and to listen to feedback.

On Wednesday, Jan. 30, members of the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce were invited aboard the Northern Expedition, where Collins will share his company’s new corporate message — enabling communities to be connected with one another. He will also share plans for a low-carbon future, replacing old vessels and adding new routes with the Northern Sea Wolf expected to start sailing this June.

With space for 150 passengers and 35 vehicles, the Northern Sea Wolf will open more access to the Central Coast. The ferry will take passengers from Bella Coola to Bella Bella and back once a week in the winter and summer seasons. There will be two round trips to Port Hardy twice a week in the summer and not at all in the winter.

“They (the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association) really felt the connection from Northern Vancouver Island into Bella Coola was critical for the whole tourism activity right into the Cariboo,” Collins said.

While the Bella Coola region can anticipate more services, what can Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii residents expect in the coming months, or years?

Last June, BC Ferries converted two vessels from marine diesel fuel to liquefied natural gas (LNG), becoming the first passenger ferry system in North America to do so.

“We are the first ships anywhere in the world, of any type, to fuel natural gas on the deck of a ship … and we were the first ever to fuel on an enclosed car deck,” Collins said.

To accomplish this engineering feat, BC Ferries invested in five years of research and risk assessments, but Collins said it’s paid off, as they have forgone approximately $150-million in infrastructure to avoid special LNG fueling piers or tanks by fuelling right on the ferry.

“It makes investing in natural gas propulsion really cost effective,” he said.

Both the Northern Adventure, build in 2004, and the Northern Expedition, built in 2009, are considered younger vessels for BC Ferries’ current fleet of 36 vessels, and it’s unlikely they will be converted to LNG any time soon.

“It’s most cost effective to build it into a new ship, and both of the ships operating up here are relatively young,” Collins said.

The two northern ships burn so much fuel on their travels that he said there could be a business case for going with natural gas, which is about half the price of diesel. But it’s unlikely BC Ferries will consider the retrofit any time soon, as both vessels are modern and burn cleaner low-sulphur diesel.

When asked about some of the mechanical failures the Northern Expedition had with its engine last August and September, Collins apologized for the disruption to passengers, but he said this event is unlikely to happen again.

READ MORE: Mechanical issue delays BC Ferries sailing to Prince Rupert

“We take our northern ships into refit every year, which is not usual in our fleet, normally it’s every two-and-a-half, three years,” he said.

“No amount of maintenance is a guarantee it won’t break, but I feel confident the Expedition is going to work very well.”

Something that is coming this spring to BC Ferries is a new website. Collins said it’s going to have smoother booking flows, discount pricing on off-peak sales for the main routes in the south.

No, resident fares are not coming to Prince Rupert any time soon. Residents from Haida Gwaii and along the Central Coast routes, such as Bella Bella pay off-peak rates all year long.

A 15 per cent discounted fare was introduced to northern routes starting April 2018 as part of a two-year plan with the provincial government and BC Ferries. By the second quarter, BC Ferries reported that its net earnings were down due to lowering fares across 21 routes and adding more sailings to meet customer demand.

“There’s not doubt it’s had an impact on revenue. We cannot sustain that forever because it’s a big ferry system and it needs revenue to operate, and we’re continuing to invest in the ferry service,” Collins said, adding that it has a limit.


Shannon Lough | Editor
Shannon Lough 
Send Shannon email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

5 to 10 cm of snow still coming to Fraser Valley: Environment Canada

Hard to say when the freezing rain will turn to regular rainfall, Environment Canada says

Slideshow: Hope’s winter weather in photos

Readers submit photos of Hope under a blanket of snow

RCMP looking for tips in rash of crime in Hope

Theives broke into homes and cars in the Kawkawa Lake area

Fraser Cascade superintendent announces retirement

Dr. Karen Nelson has worked for School District 78 for 29 years

FVRD seeking outdoor rec feedback

Open house meetings slated for next week

B.C. VIEWS: Few clouds on Horgan’s horizon

Horgan’s biggest challenge in the remainder of his term will be to keep the economy humming along

Victoria family focuses on ‘letting go, enjoying time together’ after dad gets dementia

Walter Strauss has developed an interest in music and now takes line dancing classes

B.C. forest industry grasps for hope amid seven-month strike, shutdowns, changes

Some experts say this could be worse for forestry than the 2008 financial crisis

Northern B.C. RCMP investigating alleged sexual assault in lingerie store

One person was transported by ambulance to hospital following RCMP investigation at Sedaz

Vancouver police probe second homicide in less than 24 hours

Woman was found dead in her Gastown home

UBC, Iranian-Canadian community create memorial scholarship in honour of victims

The Jan. 8 crash killed 176 people, including 57 Canadians

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

Na’moks said he was frustrated Horgan didn’t meet with the chiefs

Update: Highway reopens after crash west of Revelstoke

Drive BC also reported a vehicle incident 10 km east of Golden.

Most Read