CFOA in the News: Canadian ferry operators are expanding their fleets to meet travel demands

BC Shipping News - July 6, 2015

By Serge Buy, CEO, Canadian Ferry Association

Every year, Canadian ferry operators transport over 55 million passengers and nearly 19 million vehicles. We help bring people to work, deliver goods to the marketplace and bring tourists to their destinations. Ferry transportation is a vital part of Canada’s transportation infrastructure and an important part of our heritage.

Canada’s ferry operators are growing, getting more environmentally friendly and we are on the cutting edge of new technology. Over the next five years, ferry operators in Canada will be spending over $1.3 billion on new vessels, retrofitting existing vessels and adding new technology to their fleets.

This is going to require a lot of partnerships with shipbuilders, technology companies and more and it will create many opportunities for suppliers across Canada and around the world.

Already, Société des Traversiers du Québec (STQ), BC Ferries and Seaspan have initiated several major procurements to improve their fleets.

STQ has received the first Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) powered ferry in North America from Fincantieri Shipyard in Italy. The MV F.-A.-Gauthier will be entering service later this summer to transport passengers and vehicles along the Matane - Baie-Comeau - Godbout ferry route. It will help lead the way as many ferry operators start to transition to LNG in the coming years.

STQ has also ordered two 92-metre LNG-powered ferries (classed by Lloyd’s Register) from Davie Shipyards in Levis, Québec. These will be the first two LNG powered ferries to be built in North America. Both vessels are expected to enter the STQ fleet in 2015. Not only are these new vessels modernizing the fleets, but they are reducing operating costs and lowering the environmental impact of ferry transportation.

Ferries are a vital element of the transportation network in Canada, but perhaps more so in British Columbia than anywhere else. Mike Corrigan, CEO of BC Ferries, when speaking about the decision to add new LNG vessels to their fleet, stated that, “We call this a game-changer for BC Ferries, as after labour our biggest operating cost is diesel fuel. We believe LNG is the fuel of the future.”

In January 2015, Remontowa Shipyards in Poland hosted the steel cutting ceremony for the first of three vessels for BC Ferries. This is part of a $165-million contract for three LNG vessels (classed by Lloyd’s Register) to replace 50-year old ferries. The first of these intermediate class ferries will be arriving in August 2016, each will be able to transport 145 vehicles and up to 600 passengers.

On an annual basis, BC Ferries consumes approximately 120 million litres of fuel. Even with the price of oil falling, LNG provides a considerable price advantage at 30 per cent less than marine diesel. It is estimated that BC Ferries will save $9.2 million per year in fuel costs just from the upgrading of two vessels (Spirit of Vancouver Island and Spirit of British Columbia). Both of these vessels are scheduled to be upgraded by 2018.

Seaspan Ferries has also procured two dual-fuelled (diesel and LNG) ferries from Sedef Shipyard in Turkey. These vessels, classed by Bureau Veritas, will be entering service in 2016. One of the interesting parts about this procurement was the partnership agreement that Seaspan entered into with FortisBC, an LNG supplier that contributed $5 million to the purchase of these ferries.

The new Seaspan ferries are also demonstrating the leadership of ferry operators in seeking out new technologies. In addition to operating with LNG and diesel, these vessels will also use an energy storage system that will work as a spinning reserve and power harbour manoeuvres. Both vessels will navigate the Georgia Strait between Vancouver and Vancouver Island when they enter operation in 2016.

With over 180 ferry routes across Canada, ferry operators will continue investing in their fleets. There has never been a better time than now for suppliers to get involved with the ferry sector.

The Canadian Ferry Association will be hosting our Annual Conference in Vancouver from September 13 to 15 at the Marriott Pinnacle. This year’s theme is “Cutting Edge: New Technologies in the Ferry Sector,” due to the demand that CFA members have for improving their fleets. Ferries are also looking for new ways on improving on-board service and other amenities using new technology. From online booking systems to on-board wifi, ferry operators are looking for new technologies to improve their fleets.

This is an excellent opportunity for operators and suppliers to network and develop business relationships. There are opportunities for suppliers to showcase their products, address conference delegates and meet key contacts from the major ferry operators in Canada.

To register for the 2015 conference or for more information about the work being done by the Canadian Ferry Association, visit our website at

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