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B.C. Ferries changing plans for electric ferries; wants to order four new ones

Original plan was to electrify six existing Island-class ferries
One of B.C. Ferries’ Island-class vessels, Island Nagalis. VIA B.C. FERRIES

B.C. Ferries has withdrawn an application to electrify its six existing Island-class ferries, saying it will submit a new plan in coming weeks.

It also said it wants to buy four new electric-powered Island-class vessels.

No further information about existing and potential new vessels was revealed.

B.C. Ferries had won approval in 2021 from the B.C. Ferry Commissioner to electrify its Island-class ferries by using on-board batteries and installing up to nine land-based rapid-charging systems.

That application had said the program would be paid for by B.C. Ferries and other sources. The company had hoped the federal government would contribute funds but that did not happen.

“After further consideration, B.C. Ferries will be proceeding with a reduced scope and a different implementation strategy for Island class vessel electrification and at this time is withdrawing this application,” Jason Barabash, B.C. Ferries vice-president, general counsel and corporate secretary, said in an Aug. 30 letter to the commissioner.

“The company still believes in the merits of operating Island class vessels in battery-electric mode from shore-based rapidcharging systems, and considers that such an approach is in the public interest,” Barabash said.

“The company intends to submit a new filing in the coming weeks with respect to this matter.”

However, B.C. Ferries said in a separate Aug. 30 report to the commissioner, related to the upcoming cap on fare increases, that it “now plans to electrify four new build Island-class vessels.”

“Previous electrification costs reflected modifying existing Island class vessels. While the overall capital spend is relatively unchanged, it has been accelerated,” the company said.

The report said the previous plan included keeping the Mayne Queen ferry but that would not be necessary with the delivery of four new Island-class vessels.

Company president Nicolas Jimenez said in recent weeks that the company has gone to its board about ordering new Island-class ferries.

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