The mid-size ferries joining the B.C. Ferries fleet starting in 2016 will form the new Salish class of vessels.
B.C. Ferries announced Tuesday that the Salish class name applies to all three vessels being built at a Polish shipyard for a total cost of $165 million. The three 351-foot vessels will be called Salish Orca, Salish Eagle and Salish Raven.
“These names honour the Coast Salish people and truly reflect both the West Coast travel experience and the culture of B.C.,” said Mike Corrigan, B.C. Ferries president and chief executive officer, on Tuesday. “We worked heavily with the First Nations throughout the process.”
Each ferry will feature an exterior First Nations design that reflects its name, Corrigan said. The interior will also showcase First Nations art.
B.C. Ferries was the butt of jokes when it unveiled its contest May 19, prompting suggestions such as Spirit of the Walletsucker and Queen of the Cash Cow.
Corrigan was good-natured about that initial response. “It really promoted the naming contest for us.”
A total of 7,100 entries were submitted, representing close to 21,000 names, officials said.
The naming announcement was staged in the First Nations Gallery of the Royal B.C. Museum, where a canoe and other artifacts were on display. Representatives from the Songhees, Esquimalt and Nanaimo First Nations attended.
Esquimalt Chief Andy Thomas reflected on the ocean’s importance for his people, saying the water is sacred. “That is our highway. We are water people.”
He said by giving the ferries these names, it will be “something that you are really going to honour and take care of.”
Esquimalt elder Mary Ann Thomas spoke about the power of words and the ferries’ names. She urged people to see the names as an inspiration for all people to work together, love each other, help each other and forgive each other.
Harold Swierenga, chairman of Salt Spring Island’s ferry advisory committee, was on the 12-member panel making recommendations for ferry names. “Salish was almost a unanimous choice from the very beginning,” he said, noting that it’s a fitting choice as the vessels will all be sailing the Salish Sea.
Another panel member, Paul Catsburg, director of B.C. Ferries vessel replacement program, said the three animal names are all “iconic in their representation of the coast.”
The Salish Orca will be in service in late 2016 on the route between Comox and Powell River, replacing the 50-year-old Queen of Burnaby.
The Salish Eagle will replace the 51-year-old Queen of Nanaimo and start serving the Tsawwassen-Southern Gulf Islands route in early 2017.
The Salish Raven is expected to follow in 2017. It will also serve the Southern Gulf Islands.
Nine entrants submitted one or two of the full names that were picked. Draws were held to choose the contest winner for each name: Mark Crawford of Saanich for Salish Raven, Brian Douglas of Cobble Hill for Salish Orca, and Pat Burns of Vancouver for Salish Eagle.
Each winner receives a $500 voucher for B.C. Ferries. The other six entrants will receive a round-trip voucher.