Following today’s approval from the British Columbia Ferries Commissioner for BC Ferries to acquire a used vessel to provide direct-summer service in 2018 between Port Hardy and Bella Coola, the Government of B.C. has announced it will contribute $15 million to BC Ferries to purchase and operate this vessel.
The vessel, currently named the Aqua Spirit, will also replace the 44-year old Nimpkish, which provides a year-round connector service on route 10S between Bella Coola and other mid-coast ports of Bella Bella, Ocean Falls and Shearwater.
“The Province recognizes that the new service will result in incremental costs to BC Ferries over and above the existing service on route 10S, which is why we are contributing $15 million to BC Ferries to help ensure that this new direct-summer service has a successful start,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone. “With the upturn in tourism and particular interest in the Great Bear Rainforest, we expect this new route 28 to become an important complement to local tourism initiatives.”
“When the Province announced its commitment to the new route last year, BC Ferries launched an international search to secure an appropriate vessel,” said Mark Collins, BC Ferries’ president and CEO. “We looked at numerous ships on the global market using both experienced ship brokers and direct contacts. We believe this vessel, with its’ strong sea-keeping ability, size and enhanced amenities, will provide an excellent experience for customers exploring the spectacular Great Bear Rainforest.”
The vessel was built in 2000 and will accommodate more than 35 vehicles and 150 passengers and crew. BC Ferries will take possession of the ship in August 2017. It will undergo major upgrades from the fall of 2017 through the spring of 2018. All passenger areas will be refurbished including lounges, the galley, washrooms and outer-deck spaces.
“Our investment in this enhanced service will help generate additional interest in tourism along the mid-coast and throughout the Cariboo-Chilcotin,” said Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training. “This opens up access for visitors to the unique and unparalleled beauty of the Great Bear Rainforest and other tourism opportunities in the region. I want to thank the hard working group of stakeholders for the constructive approach that allowed us to reach this positive outcome."
“Tourism operators in the Cariboo and Chilcotin are ready to welcome visitors from around the world as a result of this new direct service to Bella Coola,” said Minister of State for Rural Economic Development Donna Barnett. “I look forward to working with the local and First Nations tourism industries to help them make the most out of this opportunity.”
This new service will provide access for visitors to the unique and unparalleled beauty of the Great Bear Rainforest, and create additional interest in tourism along the mid-coast and through the Cariboo-Chilcotin for years to come.
“The Aboriginal tourism industry and our partners from the Mid Coast Working Group celebrate this increased ferry access on coastal British Columbia announced today by the BC Ferry Commissioner,” said Keith Henry, president and CEO of the Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada. “The tourism industry continues to grow and the increased access will enable further development for coastal B.C. tourism which offers some of Canada’s best authentic Aboriginal tourism experiences. The tourism industry, in partnership with First Nations, have created a new tourism vision and today we can ensure marketing and future product development to build this vision together.”
Summer service is scheduled to begin in 2018 and will run from mid-June through mid-September on the direct route between Port Hardy and Bella Coola five times per week. The ship will also provide service to other mid-coast ports of Bella Bella, Ocean Falls and Shearwater in the summer, as well as in the off-season.
The voyage between Port Hardy and Bella Coola will take approximately 10 hours and is planned to be conducted in the daytime to maximize tourism potential. BC Ferries will be engaging with the mid-coast community regarding the sailing schedule and the naming of the vessel.