V2V Empress ferry back in service with new engines, skipper, optimism

V2V Empress ferry back in service with new engines, skipper, optimism

There is a new man with a hand on the wheel of Riverside Marine’s V2V Empress catamaran, and there’s no mistaking the line of thinking that drives him.

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Julian Wright, nephew of Riverside chief executive Hume Campbell, has stepped in as general manager for V2V in Victoria and brings to work each day the same optimism for the passenger ferry service between Victoria and Vancouver as his uncle.

“I’ve spent a good amount of time with Hume on this project and I completely support the move to come to Victoria,” said Wright, the fourth generation of the family to work in the business.

Wright said the vast experience of Riverside’s 90-plus years in business, the diversity of experience the company has had and the similarities between Canada and Australia — where the company has the bulk of its operations — have led him to the same conclusion as Campbell, that V2V will be a viable operation.

“For us, it’s a completely long-term play,” said Wright who moved to Canada in early January. “I’m looking at time horizons around 15 and 20 years plus.”

That sounds a lot like Campbell, who in December said he was resolved to establishing the Victoria-Vancouver passenger ferry service, and has plans to eventually add a second vessel on the route.

The service had a rough start last year. It started in May, struggled with low ridership and was docked in August when V2V Empress lost an engine.

V2V Empress spent four months in drydock at Point Hope Shipyard and was refitted with new engines at a cost of $2 million. In total, V2V has spent about $14 million to establish itself.

It was back in the water in December and, after sea trials and training, it restarted its passenger service in mid-January.

Wright said they kept the restart quiet “because of the false starts that we’ve had” and they have managed to get into a rhythm with a new crew.

The company had to hire an entirely new crew after taking the vessel out of service and because they changed the home port to Victoria from Vancouver.

Wright said that was down to the welcoming the company got from Victoria.

“They have embraced us as a start-up business and we felt we needed to embrace them in return,” he said.

The changes included the addition of Wright, who as a member of the family can directly impart the ideals and vision of the founders without any loss in translation. “I do think it’s a combination of that and my experience,” he said.

Currently, the service is running Friday through Monday, leaving Victoria at 9 a.m. and arriving in Vancouver around midday. The return trip from Vancouver leaves Coal Harbour at 1:30 p.m. It will start running seven days a week as of Feb. 26 and will add a second sailing daily later in the year.

V2V will not have to deal with direct competition this season as Victoria Clipper has cancelled plans to operate a passenger ferry on the same route. Clipper had planned to launch a competing service in the spring , but dropped the idea, citing unexpected operating costs in Vancouver.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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