Northern Sea Wolf ferry completed 130 voyages, helped with major rescue

The first season of service for B.C. Ferries’ Northern Sea Wolf was an eventful one.

The 246-foot vessel completed 130 voyages, travelled 14,286 nautical miles and helped rescue survivors of a float plane crash north of Vancouver Island in its first year of direct service between Bella Coola and Port Hardy.

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The vessel, its crew and customers played a key role in efforts to rescue plane crash survivors on Addenbroke Island on July 26.

Four people were killed and five others were injured when a float plane crashed on the uninhabited island about 100 kilometres north of Port Hardy. The Northern Sea Wolf was the first vessel to respond to the crash followed by a Coast Guard helicopter, a Cormorant helicopter and a Buffalo aircraft from 19 Wing Comox.

As the first responder on scene, the Northern Sea Wolf put out a call for any medical professionals onboard. Two doctors were passengers on the vessel that day and volunteered. The doctors, a deckhand who is an occupational first-aid attendant, and all the available medical supplies were deployed to the island.

At that point, the vessel had been in service for less than two months. Its first voyage was on June 3, a year later than first expected.

“The Northern Sea Wolf provided the Bella Coola and Port Hardy communities with safe, reliable and comfortable service this summer, helping to drive tourism to the region,” said B.C. Ferries chief executive Mark Collins. “We look forward to the vessel continuing to provide winter service to the mid-coast communities and another popular season of direct service next summer.” The ship will continue to provide connector service from Bella Bella to Shearwater, Ocean Falls and Bella Coola during the off-season.

The direct service between Vancouver Island and Bella Coola, which lost about $7 million annually, had been cancelled in 2013 by the province. But the tourism industry and local communities said the service was vital to tourism health and crucial to survival on the mid-coast.

In 2016, the government announced service would be restored and in 2017 B.C. Ferries bought a Greek ferry to use on that run. That ferry required a more extensive refit than expected. It would ultimately cost more than $70 million and the return to service was delayed until this past summer.

The vessel can carry up to 150 passengers and 35 vehicles on the 10-hour, direct-service journey. During its first year in service, the Northern Sea Wolf transported more than 5,750 passengers and 2,265 vehicles and served 5,305 coffees, 7,725 servings of eggs and 1,834 servings of bacon.

“Reliable, safe ferry service is essential for our coastal communities, First Nations and tourism visitors, providing access and connectivity to unique and world-renowned experiences,” said Amy Thacker, Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism chief executive. “We look forward to continuing our work with B.C. Ferries to grow the potential of this route.”

The direct seasonal service for next year starts again on June 3.

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