Nanaimo Commuter Ferry

Nanaimo Commuter Ferry Update

Finally some updated info on the status of the long awaited Island Ferry Services’ planned passenger ferry service between downtown Nanaimo, near the Helijet Pad, and Downtown Vancouver at the Seabus Terminal at Waterfront Station.

Readers of Nanaimo Realty Blog and my monthly Market Reports will know that I see this as potentially THE single biggest game changer when it comes to Nanaimo and the Real Estate market here.

Unfortunately the Nanaimo to Vancouver foot passenger ferry service won’t be launching on time this summer, according to a post on Island Ferries’ Facebook account.

The private company had planned to offer customers six sailings a day from downtown Vancouver on two brand new ferries at the end of June but it is now delayed due to regulatory issues.

Permits need green light

The company says the delays are, in part, due to work needed for a licence to use Translink’s South SeaBus Terminal in Vancouver which includes an environmental assessment on the potential impact of its operations on sea mammals.

waterfront-stationThe Vancouver Fraser Port Authority still needs to give the company’s application the go-ahead.

The Facebook post (below) details the outstanding approvals and permits needed to get the ferries moving.

This, just posted on the Island Ferry Services Facebook Page, and I quote:

“A LONG-overdue update for our Facebook friends and followers, community supporters and future customers….

First, we apologize for the delay in posting this notice. There are a host of “moving parts” and it’s a bit challenging to keep them in focus and moving in the same direction, to be transparent with you, and to remain respectful of the other parties involved in this initiative.

Regrettably, we won’t be starting service this summer.

To recap and outline the work ahead of us:

We’ve been through a “Request for Expressions of Interest” with the City of Nanaimo and Nanaimo Port Authority, and we secured an “Offer to Lease” with the Nanaimo Port Authority. The time frame for that Offer to Lease has recently been extended and we are grateful to the NPA for their continued commitment.

TransLink subsequently initiated its own “Request for Information” process, another lengthy undertaking that led to Island Ferries being selected to enter into commercial negotiations. Our commercial negotiations with Translink are under a very restrictive non-disclosure agreement. As such, we cannot and will not speak to the details other than to say that the discussions are positive and that there are few remaining issues.

The IFSL-TransLink license must be approved by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) since the VFPA holds TransLink’s lease for the SeaBus Terminal. We did not anticipate that the very minor works required to the outside of the SeaBus Terminal (replacing the existing ramp and fenders) would require a comprehensive permit application to the VFPA – including a separate environmental assessment focused on the potential impact of our operations on marine mammals. The permit application and associated study were recently submitted but approval can take up to 60 days.

At this time and in order to move forward, we need to complete three key tasks:

1. We need to complete an environmental assessment required by the NPA, a requirement that emerged during lease negotiations. This work includes obtaining the Snuneymuxw First Nation’s input to the environmental assessment. This process has taken much longer than anyone had anticipated but we believe that it is nearing completion.

2. We need to complete negotiations and finalize licensing arrangements with TransLink for use of the South SeaBus Terminal in Vancouver.

3. We need VFPA approval of application to complete the external modification to the SeaBus terminal. As noted earlier, the VFPA’s stated approval timeline is between 10 and 60 days.

Frankly, we aren’t in control of the approval and negotiating timeline but, once these goals are met, we will be able to set a date for the start of service. That date will take into account the many activities that we have previously said need to be done in order to carry our first passengers:

• design, gain approval for, and make the physical infrastructure changes that are needed at the Nanaimo Port Authority and SeaBus terminal;
• set up the various back-office systems (personnel, financial, marketing, ticketing, reservations, etc.);
• hire and train ship and terminal crews, as well as the supporting team members; and
• trial, ship from the construction yard to Nanaimo, and take delivery of two brand new catamarans (that will incidentally meet the highest environmental standards in the marine industry), and complete the remainder of the training program.

Admittedly, this is a very long update and the news will be disappointing to many. Including us. This is a complex, expensive undertaking with many moving parts (some of which have been most unexpected), yet we are working diligently through the regulatory processes to “keep those parts moving in the same direction”, and get this service underway.

As always, we truly appreciate the support and interest that we continue to receive from many, many quarters. Please bear with us. We are still investing on this project and remain fully committed to providing this much needed, and highly desired, Nanaimo-Vancouver service.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.