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Despite challenges, hope still floats on V2V ferry venture

If there’s frustration or disappointment simmering within Hume Campbell, he doesn’t show it.
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Riverside Marine CEO Hume Campbell with Jessica Gaertner, left, vice-president of V2V Vacations, and Katherine Rowe, V2V marketing and brand manager.


If there’s frustration or disappointment simmering within Hume Campbell, he doesn’t show it. 

Holding court in the first-class cabin of V2V Vacation’s Empress catamaran while it sits idle at Point Hope Shipyard, the chief executive of Riverside Marine remains affable and, despite sitting in a vessel that will remain out of the water until mid-December, coolly determined to make a success of his Victoria venture.

Campbell’s 91-year-old Australian company Riverside Marine launched V2V, a passenger touring ferry between Victoria’s Inner Harbour and Vancouver’s Coal Harbour, in May. By mid-August, the vessel was sidelined, needing a new engine.

“Launching something from startup is very hard, it’s one of the hardest things you can do,” he said, noting this venture started amid a chorus of doomsayers.

“Look, there’s a joy in being challenged,” he said. “What’s your courage level? What’s your faith level in your team? Has your vision been dislodged?

“No, it’s stronger than ever.”

Buoyed by support from the local marine community, his staff and the enthusiasm of the passengers they carried between Victoria and Vancouver this summer, V2V invested $2 million in new engines that will arrive from Louisiana next week.

The company has spent about $12 million to establish the route.

Campbell remains bullish on Victoria and the viability of the service.

Riverside is designing a new vessel to be built as a sister ship to the Empress, which would allow the company to run two return trips per day.

The build will take 14 months and cost about $15 million. Riverside hopes to build it in Canada, and have it in service in the summer of 2019.

Campbell, the third generation of his family to run Riverside, said it is not the kind of company that gives up when the fighting gets ugly.

“You can fail and close down, but our family is not like that,” he said. “We’ve had lots of setbacks in our 90 years, all sorts of calamities, from the sinking of vessels, vessels caught in tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones.”

Campbell said they are resilient and will recover.

“There’s always doomsayers and naysayers, but if you operate your life like that, you don’t go anywhere in my books. This is really an opportunity to show we can recover,” he said. “What have we learned [from this]? We learned that things fail, but the secret is there is recovery.”

Campbell is not put off by the fact ridership was low when the vessel was in service, noting that he always said it would take time to establish itself.

“But there is brand awareness now, a year ago they didn’t know the brand,” he said, pointing out he is regularly asked, when wearing V2V branded gear, when the company is coming back into service.

When it relaunches the service in December, the company plans to offer $50 fares for all seat classes for the first five days, and then establish fares ranging from $70 to $200 after that. Previously, fares ranged from $120 to $240.

The company will soon look for new staff members as well, as about 10 of V2V’s 35 employees moved on when the vessel was idled.

When the Empress starts service again, it will run four days a week until March 1, when it will resume daily sailings.

Campbell said ultimately the market will determine if the service is viable. In the meantime, the company wants to ensure that passengers get the best experience possible, he said.