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

bc ferry

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

Just Posted

Poetry contest started for Vancouver Island poets

“We’re such a unique group,” says founder on why she wanted to start the collective

North Island College ready for a virtual fall semester

“It’s a really good time to be a student.”

Ten hour planned power outage coming for north Island residents

To keep crews and the public safe, power must be switched off while BC Hydro completes the work.

A parent’s pandemic survival kit: Are you rewarding bad behaviour? Part 2

The phrase, “be good” is just an anxiety-provoking nebulous idea that threatens rejection.

All inquiry recommendations implemented after fatal Port Hardy RCMP shooting: Ministry

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. cleared the RCMP officers involved of wrongdoing

B.C. records 146 new COVID-19 cases through long weekend

More that 28 people tested positive for the virus each day since Friday

Canucks tame Minnesota Wild 4-3 to even NHL qualifying series

J.T. Miller leads Vancouver with goal and an assist

COVID-19 vaccine efforts provide hope but no silver bullet to stop pandemic: Tam

There are more than two dozen vaccines for COVID-19 in clinical trials around the world

Two people die in propane heated outdoor shower near Princeton

Couple was attending a long weekend gathering

Study shines light on what makes LGBTQ+ youth feel safe in a community

The study goes beyond looking at school or family supports

Alberta to require masks at schools this fall, but still no mandate in B.C.

B.C. students are also set to return to classrooms in September

B.C. to allow customers to buy cannabis online for in-store pickup at private shops

Age verification will still be required inside the store

30% of British Columbians would ‘wait and see’ before taking COVID vaccine: poll

Some are concerned about side effects, while others don’t think the virus is a big deal

Most Read