Travellers will be able to catch a fast ferry between Nanaimo, on central Vancouver Island, and downtown Vancouver by next summer, the company behind the launch says.
“This is the stuff ferry tales are made of,” joked Rupesh Amin, CEO of Conqora Capital Partners, at a November launch event for the Vancouver Island Ferry Company at the Port of Nanaimo.
The foot-passenger-only ferry service is slated to start in summer 2023 with terminals at the Port of Nanaimo’s cruise ship terminal and the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre in downtown Vancouver.
Two high-speed catamaran vessels are being built by the Netherland’s Damen Group. Each will hold more than 350 passengers in three classes of seating, referred to as business, premium and comfort class. Fares haven’t been announced, but the company says the price points will be “family friendly.”
Sailing schedules are also yet to be determined. Alastair Caddick, the company’s CEO, said sailings will be early enough for commuters and late enough to come home after sporting events or concerts, for example.
Seats will be fully reservable, but there will be availability for walk-on passengers. Caddick said the company can promise a “modern, comfortable experience” for travellers, with wi-fi and food and beverage available on board.
The vessels will each be powered by four engines.
“We will only operate them safely and to ensure passenger comfort, but we’re very confident in their ability to sail in these waters reliably and with a high frequency,” Caddick said.
The Port of Nanaimo, Snuneymuxw First Nation and Conqora announced a long-term lease agreement a little over a year ago. The Nanaimo-based Vancouver Island Ferry Company has since been set up and its website, vifc.com, is now live.
“We’re committed,” Amin said. “I know that there’s been a lot of questions and sometimes there still are around whether this is real, but let me guarantee that this is real, it’s here and it’s here to stay.”
He said he thinks the new service will be a “transformative” addition to the transportation system on the coast.
“We’re here to connect people to the other side, whichever way you’re coming, but also to connect people to possibilities,” Amin said.
Snuneymuxw Coun. Erralyn Joseph said a foot passenger ferry has been a priority for the First Nation for many years and said it was a “momentous” occasion to reach this point after working with Conqora and the port authority to overcome so many challenges.
“The creation of the Vancouver Island Ferry Company in Snuneymuxw territory provides amazing employment opportunities, diversifies the economy and ultimately brings people to this beautiful community to play and live,” said Snuneymuxw Coun. Bill Yoachim, acting chief, in a press release.
Donna Hais, Nanaimo Port Authority chairperson, said in the release that the foot passenger ferry company will bring many positive economic impacts in the region.
“Looking at tourism, the opportunity is extraordinary,” she said. “The ability to have people in Vancouver come over for the day, weekend or longer and see what a fabulous community we have and really bring the world here in a modern and reliable new way, is incredible.”
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