B.C. Ferries is heading into its busiest-ever period for major ship refits.
Of 24 vessels going in for refits and maintenance during the fiscal year beginning in April, 13 will go through a major drydocking, meaning the ferries will be taken out of the water. A drydock is like a huge bathtub where the water can be drained out.
An average year sees eight or nine vessels go in for a major drydock, out of a fleet of 35, said Mark Wilson, B.C. Ferries’ vice-president of engineering.
But this year, maintenance schedules that require drydocking happen to coincide for 13 vessels. Drydocking costs typically run from $1 million for a smaller vessel to up to $6 million.
The ferries will be replaced while out of service. “In some instances, a replacement vessel may be slightly smaller than the regular ship, but the refits and drydockings are conducted in the off-season when traffic levels are lower, so as not to impact our customers,” Wilson said.
The 2013-2014 refits are expected to cost about $75 million. The typical costs are $65 million to $70 million annually, he said.
B.C. Ferries has its own fleet-maintenance facility in Richmond able to accommodate six vessels, but does not have a drydock. Typically, about 30 to 35 per cent of the work is carried out in-house, with the remainder going to tender to shipyards and contractors on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, Wilson said.
Each ferry is either on a one-in-five-year docking cycle or a two-in-five-year docking cycle. On top of normal refits and maintenance, a further $20 million worth of work is approaching, raising the total to $95 million.
An upgrade for the Denman-Hornby ferry Tachek, at a cost of $15 million, began in late 2012. The vessel arrives next week at Point Hope Maritime shipyard in Vic West, where it will remain until October. It is a “fairly extensive project,” Wilson said.
It is too soon to know which B.C. shipyards will win the other refit contracts, he said.
The Tachek, built in 1969, and the Kwuna, which was built in 1975 and travels between Moresby and Graham islands in Haida Gwaii, are each going through three-quarter-life upgrades. “They’re entering the last major stage of work to get [the ferry] to its end of life,” Wilson said.
Work on the Kwuna will run from September into December.
B.C. Ferries deals with companies such as Esquimalt Drydock Company, Point Hope Maritime, Nanaimo Shipyard Group, Victoria and Vancouver shipyards, both owned by Seaspan, and Allied Shipbuilders Ltd. in North Vancouver.
24 vessels bound for overhauls
The following 13 ferries are going into drydock for extensive work such as the $15-million Tachek upgrade:s
Powell River Queen
Queen of Cowichan
Queen of New Westminster
Queen of Cumberland
The following 11 ferries are also going into refit in 2013-2014 :
Queen of Alberni
Queen of Chilliwack
Queen of Coquitlam
Queen of Nanaimo
Queen of Oak Bay
Queen of Surrey
Spirit of British Columbia
Spirit of Vancouver Island
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