BC Ferries introduces new $3.1 Billion, 12-year strategy

BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins announcing a
twelve-year strategic plan at the Vancouver
Board of Trade (Isabella Zavarise, BCIT News)

BC Ferries announced its commitment to protecting the environment in a meeting with the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade on Tuesday afternoon.

BC Ferries President and CEO Mark Collins says BC Ferries has a $3.1-billion capital plan over the next 12 years. With it they are looking to ensure a safe, reliable, and sustainable ferry system for B.C. residents.

Their resolution to protect the environment  is emphasized in this strategic plan, which cites sustainability as its central pillar. It includes introducing a modern fleet that uses alternate fuel sources such as natural gas and electric energy, and new technologies that will protect ecosystems and environments in the Georgia Strait.

Ferries can cause noise pollution underwater,
which can disturb whales and other cetaceans
who use echolocation. (Vanessa Doban, BCIT News)

Collins says two of its “Spirit” class BC Ferries vessels are currently being rebuilt to run on natural gas. Meanwhile, smaller ferries which don’t exert enough fuel, will be moving towards 100% electric energy.

He says the company has been working closely with the Port Authority on the Whale Initiative to limit the amount of noise pollution these vessels create. Each vessel will be treated with an underwater coating to help reduce undersea noise pollution.

Collins also touched on the transportation company’s efforts to engage with community members. He said the company needs to better relate to its customers, especially when it comes to engaging with coastal first nations groups.

“We haven’t gone far enough or fast enough. The Salish program, with the wrapping of the ship was a very interesting one. We had a very close working relationship with the first nations on that. And a lot of good will built between our culture and First Nations culture, but we need to do far more on that.” – Mark Collins, President and CEO of BC Ferries

When addressing the disconnect with its customer base, he said the challenge is that while “a lot of people like” the BC Ferries brand, “few people love it.” Collins says many customers find the prices to be too steep, but Collins says fees have remained flat for the past two years and may actually go down in the near future. He says the company’s $100 Million in annual revenues from BC Ferries vacation packages, catering, and retail operations, will aim to help balance out costs, and ultimately keep fares low.

Travel and tourism, especially in summer
months, bring many passengers on BC Ferries
vessels. (Vanessa Doban, BCIT News)

Another challenge faced by BC Ferries in its goal of a “safe, reliable, and sustainable” ferry system, is traffic.

“We’ve seen traffic grow ten, twelve percent in the last few years. Last year, the main route from Tsawassen to Vancouver during the summer operated at 97% full.” – Mark Collins, President and CEO of BC Ferries

Collins credits the surge in traffic to a few factors, including a rising population, tourism, and a strong economy. According to BC Ferries, this past quarter saw its highest passenger traffic levels in over 20 years.

Maps courtesy of BC Ferries.