Nanaimo-Vancouver foot-passenger ferry service will not happen this summer

Photo: Google Street View

Island Ferry Services will not be launching a foot-passenger service between Nanaimo and Vancouver this summer as expected.

A company spokesman would not estimate Tuesday when the service might start up, saying the venture still faces several regulatory hurdles.

“We are being really careful here,” David Marshall, company director of operations, said in an interview. “We are not in control of the timelines.”

The Victoria-based company said last year it anticipated starting service this summer.

“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,” Marshall wrote on the company’s Facebook page, acknowledging the delay is “disappointing.”

Some key approvals and agreements remain.

An environmental assessment for the Nanaimo Port Authority was submitted, but further questions will have to be answered, Marshall said.

The aim is to complete a long-term lease. “This process has taken much longer than anyone had anticipated, but we believe that it is nearing completion.”

The company has to complete negotiations and finalize licensing arrangements with TransLink to use the South SeaBus Terminal in Vancouver.

It needs Vancouver Fraser Port Authority approval to modify the exterior of the SeaBus Terminal. Island Ferry Services wants to carry out “very minor works” to replace a ramp and fenders at the terminal in Vancouver.

The company did not expect this would require a permit application to the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, he wrote on Island Ferry Services’ Facebook page.

That application required a report on any potential impact on marine mammals, he said. The report and application have been submitted, Marshall said.

Island Ferry Services will have to develop designs for infrastructure modifications in Nanaimo and Vancouver, followed by installation once approved. It will have to set up back-office systems, such as financial, marketing and ticketing, and hire and train ship and terminal crews.

About 150 jobs will be created, Marshall said. There will be six jobs at the corporate office in Victoria, 14 in Vancouver to operate the terminal, and the remainder in Nanaimo, where employees will work as crew members.

The company still has to take delivery of two fast-catamarans, costing $20 million each. The vessels are in Singapore, where construction is nearly complete, Marshall said.

They will not be brought to Nanaimo until the process is further along, he said.

Kim Smythe, president and CEO of the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce, said the delay is a “bit disappointing.”

The service will create greater connectivity between Nanaimo and Vancouver, Smythe said.

“I think it will be excellent for business going both ways.”

He is hoping that Vancouver firms will explore opportunities to do business in Nanaimo.

Times Colonist