The Norther Expedition at the Port Hardy ferry terminal just before heading north on Saturday.

The Norther Expedition at the Port Hardy ferry terminal just before heading north on Saturday.

Size matters — Port Hardy councillors want input on new Mid-Coast ferry

BC Ferries is asking for permission to purchase a used vessel that will carry 35 vehicles and 150 passengers/crew

Port Hardy councillors say the decisions made on a new boat for the Port Hardy to Mid Coast run are important for not only their community and the North Island, but the entire province.

B.C. Ferries’ preferred option is the purchase of a particular used vessel they found that can carry 35 vehicles and 150 passengers and crew.

“Thirty-five might be a little low,” Coun. Fred Robertson told The Gazette. “What I think Port Hardy would like to see is a ferry that would allow for growth in the tourism industry.”

Robertson and district staff met last week to put together some input for the BC Ferries Commissioner, who will make the final decision on what vessel serves the route starting in 2018. The input has to be sent to the commissioner by March 27.

The vessel that used to service the Mid Coast route from Port Hardy, the Chilliwack, had capacity for 112 vehicles and 400 passengers/crew. Even if the Chilliwack averaged just half capacity over a season, “that’s still greater than the ferry they (BC Ferries) are looking at right now,” said Robertson.

BC Ferries officials seem to believe the ship they have proposed will suffice.

“The candidate used vessel will have many elements similar to and compatible with BC Ferries’ two northern ships (Northern Adventure and Northern Expedition), and the ship and shore design will enable its operation on the other northern routes, should the need ever arise in the future,” BC Ferries states in its application.

The Nimpkish, now providing the service on this route after the Chilliwack was retired, is the smallest vessel in the BC Ferries fleet and one of the oldest. It started service in 1973 and has capacity for 12 vehicles and 100 passengers/crew.

A Mid-Coast Working Group has taken the lead on the study of tourism — and ferry service — for the region. Its most recent report in January, a tourism demand analysis and ferry services evaluation, made reference to Port Hardy’s growth in terms of accommodation capacity.

”Port Hardy can be expected to have sufficient (though seasonally constrained) accommodation capacity, but this is highly dependent on appropriate ferry service scheduling vis-à-vis the Northern Expedition/Route 10,” said the report. “The introduction of the Kwa’lilas Hotel and the Pier Side Landing expansion/renovation (formerly Seagate Hotel) should assist in absorbing new visitor volumes, bringing the total accommodation capacity in Port Hardy to 439 rooms.”

It’s not clear when the BC Ferries Commissioner will make a decision on what vessel will come to Port Hardy in 2018. BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall didn’t want to comment on the situation.

“It’s probably inappropriate for us to be talking about it while it’s in front of the commissioner,” Marshal told The Gazette.

At the District of Port Hardy council meeting last week, Mayor Hank Bood put a positive spin on the situation.

“Now that there’s actual go-ahead to fund a vessel to do the run, that’s very good news for Port Hardy,” said Bood.

• BC Ferries says a fleet-wide pricing promotion — 50 per cent off regular passenger fares and kids travel free — runs until March 30.

On North Coast Routes, including Port Hardy-Prince Rupert and the Discovery Coast Connector, the pricing promotions will apply on every sailing until, and including, March 30. That’s a savings of more than $74 for a one-way adult ticket.

B.C. Ferries said through a news release the promotional discount is applicable on regular passenger fares for adult, B.C. senior, student and persons with disabilities.

The complimentary travel for kids is applicable on a child’s fare.