Ship and terminal upgrades to Gabriola planned for 2023

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, June 5 2019

BC Ferries says the plan is to have the Gabriola and Nanaimo terminal redevelopments completed by the end of March, 2023.

The Island Class vessels which will replace the Quinsam are expected for delivery in late 2021 and in service for early 2022.

While the Terminal Redevelopment Plans for the terminals serving the Gabriola route are 25-year visionary documents, staff are saying the intent is to have them completed within the next four years.

Dave Hendry, BCF Director of Strategic Planning and Community Engagement, was speaking at the May 6 meeting of the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee.

He said the focus to start with will be getting the terminals ready for the two-ship operation.

For the Nanaimo terminal, that means having two berths, so that when only one ship is operating in the evenings, the other ship can be berthed.

On the Gabriola side, the application has been made to the Islands Trust for rezoning the properties around the terminal. BC Ferries says it expects the process will take at least 18 months to complete.

Hendry says there is also talk about working with the City of Nanaimo to expand the terminal compound to accommodate more vehicles in order to avoid the long lineups down Front Street.

It is also hoped that bringing two vessels into service will alleviate the lineup pressures on the Gabriola side, with BC Ferries being able to transport 100 vehicles every hour, compared to 70 vehicles per hour right now.

Darin Guenette, BC Ferries Communications Manager, clarified the timelines for the vessels and terminals.

The Requests for Proposals is active for the next four Island Class vessels, and BC Ferries hopes to be in contract soon with a shipyard to build these ships. 

The two vessels slated to replace the Quinsam on Route 19 are currently forecasted to enter service in the spring of 2022. 

“We can formulate a more specific service date as the contract is settled and building is underway. Our plan would be to conduct ‘Island Class info sessions’ in the community in the year leading up to their entry into service. This allows people to learn more about these ships and share comments/questions they may have.”

He said that while the current plan for terminal work is to see the construction done before March of 2023 (for both terminals), what needs to happen next is the “detailed design” phase. 

“Which will allow us to formally start up the construction work in projects. Once we get these projects started, we should then have more accurate timelines for each terminal (what work will happen when, etc.). 

“That will allow us to update the community with what to expect for changes, when they will happen at each terminal, and what effect the construction will have on regular service.”