BC Ferries facts for kids
|Organized as a privately held company, with the provincial Crown as sole shareholder|
|Founded||Victoria, British Columbia (June 15, 1960)|
|Headquarters||Victoria, British Columbia, Canada|
|John A. Horning, Chair
Mark Collins, President & CEO
|Revenue||C$925.6 million (2019)|
|C$104.9 million (2019)|
|C$52.2 million (2019)|
|Owner||BC Ferry Authority (Government of British Columbia)|
Number of employees
British Columbia Ferry Services Inc., operating as BC Ferries (BCF), is a former provincial Crown corporation, now operating as an independently managed, publicly owned Canadian company. BC Ferries provides all major passenger and vehicle ferry services for coastal and island communities in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Set up in 1960 to provide a similar service to that provided by the Black Ball Line and the Canadian Pacific Railway, which were affected by job action at the time, BC Ferries has become the largest passenger ferry line in North America , operating a fleet of 36 vessels with a total passenger and crew capacity of over 27,000, serving 47 locations on the B.C. coast.
As BC Ferries provides an essential link from mainland British Columbia to the various islands, and parts of the mainland without road access, on its routes, it is subsidized by the Government of British Columbia ($151 million in the 2011 fiscal year) and the Government of Canada ($27 million in the 2011 fiscal year). The inland ferries operating on British Columbia's rivers and lakes are not run by BC Ferries. The responsibility for their provision rests with the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation, which contracts operation to various private sector companies.
In the summer of 1958, a strike by employees of CP Steamships and the Black Ball Line caused the Social Credit government of W. A. C. Bennett to decide that the coastal ferry service in B.C. needed to be government-owned, and so it set about creating BC Ferries. Minister of Highways Phil Gaglardi was tasked with overseeing the new Crown corporation and its rapid expansion.
BC Ferries' first route, commissioned in 1960, was between Swartz Bay, north of Sidney on Vancouver Island, and Tsawwassen, a part of Delta, using just two vessels. These ships were the now-retired MV Tsawwassen and the MV Sidney. The next few years saw a dramatic growth of the B.C. ferry system as it took over operations of the Black Ball Line and other major private companies providing vehicle ferry service between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. As the ferry system expanded and started to service other small coastal communities, BC Ferries had to build more vessels, many of them in the first five years of its operations, to keep up with the demand. Another method of satisfying increasing demand for service was BC Ferries' unique "stretch and lift" program, involving seven vessels being cut in half and extended, and five of those vessels later cut in half again and elevated, to increase their passenger and vehicle-carrying capacities. The vast majority of the vessels in the fleet were built in B.C. waters, with only two foreign purchases and one domestic purchase. In the mid-1980s, BC Ferries took over the operations of the saltwater branch of the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Highways, which ran ferry services to very small coastal communities. This action dramatically increased the size of BC Ferries' fleet and its geographical service area. The distinctive "dogwood on green" flag that BC Ferries used between 1960 and 2003 gave the service its popular nickname "the Dogwood Fleet".
At its inception, BC Ferries was a division of the British Columbia Toll Highways and Bridges Authority, a provincial Crown corporation. Through successive reorganizations, it evolved into the British Columbia Ferry Authority and then the British Columbia Ferry Corporation, both of which were also provincial Crown corporations. In 2003, the Government of British Columbia announced that BC Ferries, which had been in debt, would be reorganized into a private corporation, implemented through the passage of the Coastal Ferry Act (Bill 18-2003). The single voting share of BC Ferries Corporation is held by the provincial government's BC Ferry Authority, which operates under the rules of the Act.
During the 1990s, the NDP government commissioned a series of three fast ferries to improve ferry service between the Mainland and Vancouver Island. The ships proved problematic when they suffered many technical issues and cost double what was expected. The fast ferries were eventually sold off for $19.4 million in 2003.
A controversy began in July 2004 when BC Ferries, under a new American CEO, announced that the company had disqualified all Canadian bids to build three new Coastal class ships, and only the proposals from European shipyards were being considered. The contract was estimated at $542 million for the three ships, each designed to carry 370 vehicles and 1600 passengers.
The argument for domestic construction of the ferries was that it would employ numerous British Columbia workers, revitalize the sagging B.C. shipbuilding industry, and entitle the provincial government to a large portion of the cost in the form of taxes. BC Ferries CEO David Hahn claimed that building the ferries in Germany would "save almost $80 million and could lead to lower fares."
On September 17, 2004, BC Ferries awarded the vessel construction contract to Germany's Flensburger shipyard. The contract protected BC Ferries from any delays through a fixed price and fixed schedule contract. Coastal Renaissance entered service in March 2008, while Coastal Inspiration was delivered the same month and entered service in June. The third ship, Coastal Celebration, has been delivered and is now in service as well.
On August 18, 2006, BC Ferries commissioned Flensburger to build a new vessel for its Inside Passage route, with the contract having many of the same types of terms as that for the Coastal Class vessels. The new northern service vessel, Northern Expedition, has been delivered.
In fiscal year 2011, BC Ferries reported a loss of $16.5 million due to declining ridership, with vehicle traffic dropping 3.5% and passenger traffic dropping 2.8%. Increased fares were to blame for the drop in ridership, and warnings came that there would likely be cutbacks in the service on a number of its routes in order to reduce costs.
On August 26, 2012, BC Ferries announced that it would be cutting 98 round trips on its major routes starting in the fall and winter of 2012 as part of a four-year plan to save $1 million on these routes. Service cuts have included the elimination of supplementary sailings on the Swartz Bay–Tsawwassen route, 18 round trips on the Horseshoe Bay–Departure Bay route, and 48 round trips, the largest number of cuts, on the Duke Point–Tsawwassen route, with plans to look for savings on the smaller unprofitable routes in the future.
On November 20, 2012, BC Ferry Services was listed as the 90th most profitable company in BC, with a net income of $3,781,000 in 2011 and $3,422,000 in 2010.
A year later, on November 20, 2013, the government of British Columbia announced plans to eliminate a program that gave free ferry trips to seniors, make major cuts to service on smaller, more remote routes, and undertake a pilot project that would introduce slot machines on ships serving the Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route.
In the fall of 2014, BC Ferries announced the addition of three new Intermediate-class ferries to phase out Queen of Burnaby and Queen of Nanaimo. These three vessels were to be named the Salish Class; Salish Orca, Salish Eagle and Salish Raven. They were designed and built by Remontowa Shipbuilding S.A. in Gdansk, Poland, and are dual-fuel, capable of operating on liquefied natural gas and marine diesel. These vessels are a part of BC Ferries standardized fleet plan, which will take the number of ship class in the BC Ferries fleet from 17 to 5. BC Ferries has stated that total standardization of the BC Ferries fleet will not be complete for another 40 years.
Route numbers are used internally by BC Ferries. All routes except Route 13 and the Lasqueti Island route allow vehicles.
- Route 1 – Georgia Strait South (Highway 17): Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen
- Route 3 – Howe Sound: Langdale to Horseshoe Bay
- Route 4 – Satellite Channel: Swartz Bay to Saltspring Island (at Fulford Harbour)
- Route 5 – Swanson Channel: Swartz Bay to the Southern Gulf Islands (Galiano, Mayne, Pender, and Saturna Islands)
- Route 8 – Queen Charlotte Channel: Horseshoe Bay to Bowen Island (via Snug Cove)
- Route 9 – Active Pass Shuttle: Tsawwassen to the Southern Gulf Islands (Galiano, Mayne, Pender and Saltspring Islands)
- Route 10 – Inside Passage: Port Hardy to Prince Rupert (with stops at Bella Bella and Klemtu)
- Route 10 Supplemental: servicing Bella Bella, Shearwater, Ocean Falls and Bella Coola (as of mid-2014)
- Route 12 – Saanich Inlet: Brentwood Bay to Mill Bay
- Route 13 – Thornbrough Channel: Langdale to Gambier Island (via New Brighton) and Keats Island (via Keats Landing and Eastbourne). (Foot passengers only, no vehicles). (Operated by Kona Winds Yacht Charters Ltd.)
- Route 25 – Broughton Strait: Port McNeill to Alert Bay (on Cormorant Island) and Sointula (on Malcolm Island)
- Route 28 – Discovery Coast: Port Hardy to Bella Coola (Commenced summer 2018)
- Route 30 – Mid-Island Express (Highway 19): Nanaimo (via Duke Point to Tsawwassen)
- Route 55 – Georgia Strait North-Central: French Creek to Lasqueti Island (via False Bay). (Foot passengers only, no vehicles) (Operated by Western Pacific Marine).
- Unnumbered Route – Inside Passage: Prince Rupert to Port Simpson (also known as Lax Kw'alaams). (Operated by the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation community).
Numbers in blue circles are ferry route numbers. Provincial highway trailblazers are added where appropriate.
BC Ferries has the largest fleet of vehicle ferry vessels in the world. There are 36 vessels, ranging from small 16-car ferries up to 470-car superferries. All of the vessels in use by BC Ferries are roll-on, roll-off car ferries. Most of the major vessels are based on similar designs, which are aggregated into classes of ferries:
|Auto capacity||Passenger capacity||Notes||Route(s)||Photo|
|MV Island Aurora||Island||2017-2019||47||300||Hybrid diesel-electric; In service||25|
|MV Island Discovery||Island||2017-2019||47||300||Hybrid diesel-electric; In service||18|
|MV Spirit of British Columbia||Spirit||1993 (2017 - 2018)||358||2100||*Convert to marine diesel and LNG in 2017 to 2018.||1|
|MV Spirit of Vancouver Island||Spirit||1994 (2018 - 2019)||358||2100||*Convert to marine diesel and LNG in 2018||1|
|MV Coastal Renaissance||Coastal||2007||310||1650||World's largest double-ended ferries, Made in Germany||1 & 2|
|MV Coastal Inspiration||Coastal||2007||310||1650||World's largest double-ended ferries, Made in Germany||30|
|MV Coastal Celebration||Coastal||2007||310||1650||World's largest double-ended ferries, Made in Germany||1|
|MV Queen of Coquitlam||C||1976 (2003)||316||1470||2 & 3|
|MV Queen of Cowichan||C||1976 (2004)||312||1494||Photo||2 & 3|
|MV Queen of Alberni||C||1976 (1984/ 2007)||280||1200||Upper car deck added in 1984||30|
|MV Queen of Oak Bay||C||1981 (2005)||308||1466||2|
|MV Queen of Surrey||C||1981 (2006)||308||1466||2 & 3|
|MV Queen of New Westminster||None||1964 (1973/ 1991/ 2009)||254||1332||Originally a V-class ferry when built||1|
|MV Salish Orca||Salish||2016||138||600||entered service May 16, 2017||17|
|MV Salish Eagle||Salish||2016||138||600||entered service summer 2017||9|
|MV Salish Raven||Salish||2016||138||600||entered service on July 27, 2017||9|
|MV Northern Expedition||None||2009||115||600||10, 10 Supplemental, 11, 26, & 28|
|MV Northern Adventure||None||2004||87||600||Purchased in late-2006 to replace the sunken Queen of the North||10, 10 Supplemental, 11, 26, & 28|
|MV Queen of Capilano||I||1991 (2015)||100||462||Auto Capacity increased from 85 in 2015.||8|
|MV Queen of Cumberland||I||1992 (2016)||112||462||5|
|MV Malaspina Sky||I||2008||112||450||7 & 17|
|MV Skeena Queen||Century||1997||92||600||4|
|MV Powell River Queen||Powell River||1965 (1979)||59||408||Stretched in 1979 to increase capacity||23|
|MV Mayne Queen||Powell River||1965 (1979)||58||400||Stretched in 1979 to increase capacity||9|
|MV Bowen Queen||Powell River||1965 (1979)||61||400||Stretched in 1979 to increase capacity||9|
|MV Quinitsa||None||1977 (2008)||44||394||Transferred to BC Ferries in 1985||6|
|MV Baynes Sound Connector||None||2015||45||150||First and only cable ferry owned by BC Ferries.||21|
|MV Quinsam||Q||1982 (2010)||63||400||Transferred to BC Ferries in 1985||19|
|MV Quadra Queen II||T||1969 (2010)||26||293||Transferred to BC Ferries in 1985||Relief Vessel|
|MV Tachek||T||1969 (2011)||26||243||Transferred to BC Ferries in 1985||24|
|MV Klitsa||K||1972||19||195||Transferred to BC Ferries in 1985||12|
|MV Kahloke||K||1973||21||200||Transferred to BC Ferries in 1985||22|
|MV Kwuna||K||1975||16||154||Transferred to BC Ferries in 1985||26|
|MV Kuper||K||1985 (2006)||26||269||Purchased in 2006||20|
|MV Nicola (also known as Spirit of Lax Kw' alaams)||N||1960||16||133||Transferred to BC Ferries in 1985
Owned by but not operated by BC Ferries
|Unnumbered Route (Operated by the Lax Kw'alaams First Nation community).|
|MV Nimpkish||N||1973||12||125||Transferred to BC Ferries in 1985||28|
|MV Northern Sea Wolf||None||2000||35||150||Purchased in 2017||28|
|MV Stormaway III||None||n/k||0||40||Owned and operated by Kona Winds Yacht Charters Limited, under the sponsorship of and out of the Langdale terminal of BC Ferries.||13 (Operated by Kona Winds Yacht Charters Ltd).
|MV Stormaway IV||None||n/k||0||40||Owned and operated by Kona Winds Yacht Charters Limited, under the sponsorship of and out of the Langdale terminal of BC Ferries.||13 (Operated by Kona Winds Yacht Charters Ltd).|
|MV Centurion VII||None||n/k||0||60||Owned and operated by Western Pacific Marine, under the sponsorship of BC Ferries, and out of Western Pacific Marine's French Creek Terminal.||55 (Operated by Pacific Western Marine).|
- List of retired BC Ferries ships
- PacifiCat-class ferry
In 2019, BC started a $200 million program to acquire four hybrid/electric ferries (800 kWh each) to service three routes.
|Film||Year||Vessel or Class|
|Five Easy Pieces||1970||Mill Bay|
|Food of the Gods||1976||Howe Sound Queen|
|The Other Side of the Mountain||1978||Queen of Victoria|
|Shoot To Kill||1988||Queen of Vancouver|
|Bird On A Wire||1990||Queen of Burnaby or Queen of Nanaimo|
|Another Stakeout||1993||Powell River Class|
|Mr. Magoo||1997||Queen of Esquimalt|
|Disturbing Behavior||1998||Queen of Capilano|
|Double Jeopardy||1999||Quadra Queen II|
|Black Point||2002||Mill Bay|
|Scary Movie 3||2003||Powell River Class|
|Battlestar Galactica miniseries||2003||V-Class|
|Walking Tall||2004||Albert J Savoie|
|Elektra||2005||Albert J Savoie|
|The Mermaid Chair||2006||Mill Bay|
|The Suite Life Movie||2011||Northern Expedition|
|The Killing||2012||Queen of Capilano|
BC Ferries Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.