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B.C. Ferries paying full cost of engine fixes for three ships

Three vessels are being refitted with variable-speed motors after problems were discovered with their rotors.
B.C. Ferries vessel Coastal Celebration in for repairs at Esquimalt Graving Dock on March 6. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

B.C. Ferries has decided against pursuing an insurance claim for engine problems on its three Coastal class ships and has opted instead to pay the estimated $8.5 million cost out of its contingency fund.

“Taking into consideration our insurance deductible and ­potential for insurance rate increases if we were to make a claim, we have now decided to fund this repair out of our contingency account, which is in place for major incidents such as this one,” Jeff Groot, B.C. Ferries spokesman, said ­Monday.

“When you consider all the costs related to design, freight (air/sea), the rotors themselves and the work to exchange them, installing six rotors is about $1.4 million each, or ­approximately $8.5 million total.”

Coastal Renaissance serves the Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route. It returned to work on March 4 after it was sidelined on Aug. 17, 2023, and taken to Departure Bay in Nanaimo. The motor was subsequently sent to the U.S. for investigation and repair.

A problem discovered with the ferry’s rotor (the rotating part of an electric motor) prompted B.C. Ferries to investigate the other two Coastal vessels where they discovered similar issues.

The German-built ferries, which went into service in 2007 and 2008, were equipped with motors which vibrated and were noisy when in dock. The decision was made to turn off the motors and restart them when departing for the next sailing.

That doubled the number of starts for the engines and led to the need to replace the rotors, B.C. Ferries said.

The company has decided to install variable-speed motors to avoid a similar engine problem in the future on all three Coastal class vessels.

Coastal Celebration is at Esquimalt Graving Dock until April where it is being repaired and going through refit. After that Coastal Inspiration will take its turn for repair and refit.

B.C. Ferries is putting on an extra 192 sailings through spring break, March 14 to April 2, which also covers Easter weekend, March 28 to April 2.

Of those additional sailings, 172 will run between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen.

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