Two ferries in Snug Cove
Last weekend, islanders were surprised to see two ferries moving in and out of Snug Cove. In addition to the Queen of Capilano that provided regular service between the mainland and Bowen Island, the Island Sky docked at the Snug Cove terminal.
BC Ferries director of media relations Deborah Marshall explained, “We ran an open letter to Bowen Islanders as an ad last month advising our customers about our plans to convert the Queen of Capilano to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) fuel late this year. During the conversion process, we are planning to deploy the Island Sky to the Bowen Island route until the Queen of Capilano returns. The conversion project will take approximately six months.”
In an effort to ascertain that there would be no problems at the dock for the Island Sky, BC Ferries conducted trial runs. “Over the weekend, the Island Sky was moving from Saltery Bay to Vancouver Shipyards for work on its elevator, and we took the opportunity to undergo dock fits at both Snug Cove and Horseshoe Bay,” Marshall said. “While some adjustments will need to be made to the ‘dolphins’ (part of the berthing structure) at Snug Cove for the Island Sky, the dock fits went well.”
The Island Sky was built in 2008, has a maximum speed of 15.5 knots and is six metres longer than the Queen of Capilano which was built in 1991 and can make 12.5 knots. The newer vessel also has a one-lane second deck on each shoulder of the car deck that brings its capacity to 125 cars while the Queen of Capilano only fits 85.
At the January 9 council meeting, details of the ferry conversion were under discussion. Councillor Alison Morse said, “We met with the ferry advisory committee and learned that the LNG conversion will reduce emissions as well as costs. There was general agreement that we want to continue that discussion.” Morse mentioned that the replacement ferry holds more cars but it might not run on schedule due to the loading time. She said, “You need two lanes for loading and two lanes for off-loading. It will be an interesting learning experience to see how a vessel of that capacity might function.” Morse added that BC Ferries presented good data on the cost effectiveness of the LNG fuel.
Mayor Jack Adelaar said, “It will be interesting to see the Island Sky on our route in the interim. The Island Sky was built for the Bowen Island run. The reason it is not operating here is that we can’t get the cars and passengers off and on fast enough.” Adelaar thinks that the two to four overloads a day can be avoided with the higher capacity. Adelaar added that LNG fuel has been used in Norway for over 10 years without accidents.
Councillor Andrew Stone said that the Bowen Island run is a natural starting point for the conversion to LNG fuel but that the cost benefits are not likely to affect Bowen customers. He also pointed out that the conversion to LNG does not have any impact on the capacity of the Queen of Cailano. He said, “We are starting to get overloads again and this is not going to be alleviated [by the conversion].”
But Morse sees a benefit from seeing the Island Sky operating between Horseshoe Bay and Bowen Island. said, “We will get a practical experience how a larger vessel will work.”