A new hybrid Island-class ferry for the Nanaimo-Gabriola Island route was launched Wednesday at Damen Shipyards Galati in Romania.
It’s the sixth and final Island-class vessel built for B.C. Ferries as part of its move to renew its fleet with a pared-down number of classes.
Work will continue in Romania on the new ship until sea trials in August, B.C. Ferries said Thursday. The vessel will then sail to Point Hope Maritime in Victoria later this year for final preparations.
Victoria-owned Point Hope Maritime has signed a long-term agreement with Damen to provide technical and warranty services for the ships.
The first two Island-class vessels came into service on the Powell River-Texada Island and Port McNeill-Alert Bay-Sointula Island routes in mid-2020.
The next four Island-class ferries are scheduled to begin service next year.
The third and fourth ships will provide two-ship service on the Campbell River-Quadra Island route, while the fifth and sixth will provide two-ship service on the Nanaimo Harbour-Gabriola Island route in 2022.
Island-class ferries are powered by a hybrid diesel-electric system. Once electric charging technology can be installed at terminals, the ships will be configured to operate as all-battery-electric ferries, B.C. Ferries says.
To date, B.C. Ferries has not received funding to pay for charging infrastructure.
Island-class ferries can carry at least 47 vehicles and up to 400 passengers and crew. B.C. Ferries says the new vessels will allow it to redeploy some vessels and retire others that run on diesel fuel alone.
The corporation says the ships will reduce vehicle lineups and move more traffic more often.
Equipped with twin propellers, the ferries are designed to cut back on underwater noise and have an exhaust system that reduces nitrogen oxide emissions.