Spirit of Vancouver Island ferry returns from Poland, refit with LNG

The Spirit of Vancouver Island is expected to sail into B.C. Ferries’ refit facility in Richmond on Wednesday, a little over a month after it left Poland, where it was converted to run on liquefied natural gas rather than diesel only.

The vessel was expected to pass by the Victoria pilot station early in the morning.

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It left B.C. on Sept. 14 for the mid-life refit at Remontowa Ship Repair Yard S.A. of Gdansk Poland. Work included installation of new engines and fuel system, new navigation and propulsion equipment, upgraded elevators and improvements to the passenger area, which got new carpeting and an additional washroom, an expanded gift shop and a new coffee bar.

Once work was complete, it sailed out of Poland on Feb. 28.

The Spirit of Vancouver Island serves the Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route. A similar refit was carried out on its sister ship, the Spirit of British Columbia, between the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018. The new technology in both ships will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 12,500 tonnes every year — the same as taking 2,500 vehicles off the road, B.C. Ferries president and chief executive Mark Collins said in a statement.

For its work on the Spirit of British Columbia, B.C. Ferries has been awarded the Shippax Retrofit Award, which recognizes innovation in the ferry industry. The ferry is one of the largest passenger ferries to be converted to natural gas propulsion. It is also the first passenger ferry to refuel by taking delivery on a fully enclosed vehicle deck.

The return of the Spirit of Vancouver Island was broken into three sections: Poland to the Canary Islands, the Canary Islands to the Panama Canal, and Panama to British Columbia. A B.C. Ferries captain and engineer was on each leg.

The Spirit of Vancouver Island is scheduled to be at Sand Heads, at the entrance to the Fraser River, at 6 a.m. today. From there, it will sail to B.C. Ferries’ refit facility in Richmond, where crew will be trained. The ship is expected to return to service within the next few weeks. A specific date has not been announced.

The cost to upgrade the two ships was $140 million.

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