BC Ferries launched its sixth battery electric-hybrid Island Class ferry, which will service the Nanaimo–Gabriola Island route.
The vessel entered the water at Damen Shipyards Galati in Romania early Wednesday morning, according to BC Ferries. Work will continue on the new yet-to-be named ship until scheduled sea trials in August.
Following successful sea trials, it will be delivered to Point Hope Maritime in Victoria in late 2021 for final preparations, BC Ferries said.
It will be one of two Island Class vessels assigned to the Nanaimo Harbour – Gabriola Island route for two-ship service starting in 2022 and will replace the Quinsam.
The ship is the last in a series of six Island Class vessels joining the BC Ferries fleet.
“We are excited to reach this milestone in our Island Class project,” said Captain Jamie Marshall, BC Ferries’ vice president, shipbuilding and innovation. “The launch of the sixth and final vessel in the series propels BC Ferries closer to reaching its goal to be efficient and environmentally responsible throughout the system.”
The Island Class is a hybrid diesel-electric ferry. Once electric charging technology can be installed at BC Ferries’ terminals, these new ships will be configured to operate as all battery-electric ferries, the company said.
The ferries have the capacity to carry at least 47 vehicles and up to 400 passengers and crew and allow for fleet redeployments and retirements of existing diesel-fuelled vessels.
BC Ferries said replacing one large ship with two smaller vessels will provide customers with increased capacity per hour and more frequent service. It will also reduce vehicle line-ups and congestion on local roads.
BC Ferries deployed the first two Island Class vessels on the Powell River – Texada Island route and the Port McNeill – Alert Bay – Sointula Island route last year.
The third and fourth new ships will provide two-ship service on the Campbell River – Quadra Island route in 2022.
The fifth Island Class ferry launched in February and together with the sixth Island Class ferry, will provide two-ship service on the Nanaimo Harbour – Gabriola Island route in 2022.
BC Ferries issued a request for expressions of interest (RFEOI) for the construction of the four latest vessels to leading shipyards in Canada and around the world in July 2018.
Canadian shipyards were invited to participate in the bidding process. BC Ferries received responses from 18 international shipyards and short-listed nine shipyards to proceed to the request for proposal (RFP) stage. No Canadian companies submitted a bid, according to BC Ferries.