Say hello to Island Aurora and Island Discovery, new hybrid ferries

The first bottle of See Ya Later bubbly smashed against the hull of the Island Discovery to christen B.C. Ferries’ brand-new hybrid-electric vessel.

A second bottle was then let loose to explode on the side of the Island Aurora in a naming ceremony at Point Hope Maritime on Wednesday.

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The event celebrated the arrival of the identical ships, built in Romania by Damen Shipyards Group, with headquarters in the Netherlands.

These are the first of a new class of ferry for B.C. Ferry Services Inc. as it moves to consolidate designs within the fleet and to introduce environmentally friendly technology.

“They are really the future of our fleet,” said Mark Collins, B.C. Ferries’ president and chief executive.

“They are quiet, clean, low-carbon, low-emission ferries for the future of marine transportation in B.C.”

These vessels will run about 20 per cent on battery and the remainder on diesel fuel, he said.

“But the long-term term plan is to be all-battery. So I actually like to think that these are all-electric ships with a temporary hybrid system. We will go full electric just as soon as the shore-side infrastructure is available.”

Collins said the current estimate is that the charging infrastructure needed will be in place in five to 10 years.

Four more identical vessels have been ordered and are scheduled to be in B.C. in a little less than two years, bringing the total Island class ferries to six, he said.

“We tried to bring every innovation that is currently unfolding in the ferry industry and put them in these ships.”

The propulsion system is designed to reduce fuel consumption, emissions and noise, he said.

“This is quietest ship we have ever built, according to our sound measurements.”

When the vessels are running on battery power, they will glide quietly through the water. Reducing underwater noise will help protect marine life, particularly endangered southern resident killer whales, he said.

Each vessel will be able to carry 47 vehicles and between 300 and 450 passengers and crew members.

Island Discovery will replace the 59-year-old North Island Princess, to be retired, on the Powell River-Texada Island route.

Island Aurora will replace the 51-year-old Quadra Queen II, on the Port McNeill-Alert Bay-Sointula route. The Quadra Queen will be used as a relief vessel.

The ferries will be operating in a few months. Point Hope Maritime is preparing them for service, which requires starting up all of the systems and carrying out final inspections.

The total cost of the project for the two ferries is $86.5 million, with $28 million provided by the federal government, Collins said.

B.C. Ferries appointed two sponsors per ship. Just before letting the bottle swing against the ship, each pair said in unison: “May she bring fair winds and good fortune to all who sail on her.”

The Island Aurora’s sponsors are Melissa Fletcher of Alert Bay, chair of the tri-island ferry advisory committee, and Sheila O’Neill, B.C. Ferries’ North Island catering superintendent.

Sponsors of the Island Discover’s are Sandy McCormick of Texada Island, a former Northern Sunshine Coast ferry advisory committee member, and Sandy Leduc, B.C. Ferries’ senior business analyst.

Ferries chose the B.C. See Ya Later brand of bubbly because it is carried on board the vessels where alcohol is served.

Port McNeill Mayor Gaby Wickstrom said the new ferry will “make a difference to all of the tri-island area because it has a much larger capacity.”

“There have been some issues in the last few years, with a growing population and just events and stuff and people who are left behind, so this is going to be fantastic.”

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