Four new inland ferries draw shipyard interest

The call is out for shipyards to design and build four new cable ferries for the province’s inland waterways.

“This makes me very happy,” George MacPherson, president of B.C. Shipyard Workers Federation, said Friday. “I think this work will definitely stay in the province.”

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B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has issued a request for qualifications from shipyards. One of its project goals is to support growth in the province’s apprenticeship system and develop more certified tradespeople. A contract value for the new ferries was not released.

The year-round ferries will serve the Adams Lake, Glade, Harrop and Arrow Park crossings. The Transportation Ministry operates 14 ferry crossings in the province’s interior.

Construction could provide work for 40 to 50 tradespeople, MacPherson said. “These are fairly simple vessels, they’re not really complicated,” he said.

At least two B.C. shipyards are already interested.

Jim McFadden, president of Richmond-based Meridian Marine Industries Inc., said the company is putting a team together to bid on the project. Meridan takes on diverse projects, including a sewage treatment upgrade on the Queen of Oak Bay ferry at Deas Dock, a tidal energy vessel for a project at Dent Island northeast of Campbell River, and it has recently finished supervising construction of eight barges in China for Ledcor. About 55 workers, including eight apprentices, are employed at Meridan.

Chuck Ko, president of Allied Shipbuilding in North Vancouver, said his company will review the opportunity. “Any new construction is always of interest,” he said.

The 67-year-old firm has built 260 vessels, according to its website. It specializes in shipbuilding, repair and engineering services. About 75 workers are on the job, Ko said.

Sage Berryman, chief operating officer of the Ralmax Group of Companies, owner of Point Hope Maritime in Victoria, said the job would not suit their operation and they will not be bidding.

The new cable ferries will replace three built in the 1940s, making them some of the oldest operating ferries in the country. A fourth went into service in 1996, using salvaged materials for structures and equipment.

The closing date is Aug. 26. A shortlist of up to three yards will be drawn up. Shipyards can seek to build all four or the two smaller, at Adams Lake and Glade, or two larger, at Harrop and Arrow Park.

Plans call for the smaller ferries to have capacity for 50 passengers and nine vessels. Adams Lake is to come into service next year, with Glade following in 2017.

The Harrop ferry will carry 100 passengers and 24 vehicles, and begins service in 2018. The Arrow Park will carry 50 passengers and 24 vehicles and is to go into service in 2019.

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