Coastal-class ferry builder files for insolvency

Media greet the then-new B.C. Ferries vessel Coastal Renaissance as it approaches Victoria on its way to Vancouver in 2007 | Photo: Ray Smith, Times Colonist

The German company that built three Coastal-class vessels for B.C. Ferries more than a decade ago is insolvent.

A B.C. Ferries official said Friday that the organization has no relationship with the Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft shipyard anymore, since the warranty period for the ships was two years. “We don’t have any service or maintenance relationship with them,” B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said Friday.

Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft, which had been operating at a loss for some time, filed for self-administered insolvency on Friday, according to the publication NIFerry. The goal of the shipyard’s filing is to permit it to start afresh, it said.

Decked out in colourful designs, B.C. Ferries’ Coastal Renaissance, Inspiration and Celebration were built by the then-thriving German yard in 2007 and 2008 for just over $500 million.

The ferries, which are each 160 metres long and have capacity for 310 vehicles and 1,604 passengers and crew, travel between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.

The decision to build the vessels in Germany ignited a debate, which still continues, about whether B.C. Ferries vessels should be built in this province.

Factors such as B.C. shipyard availability, capacity, workforce experience and whether they needed modernization have all played into the discussions.

Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft was also shortlisted to construct B.C. Ferries’ three Salish-class vessels, but Remontowa Shipbuilding S.A. of Gdansk, Poland, was selected for that contract. Seaspan out of North Vancouver, a Norwegian company and a company in Turkey were also shortlisted.

B.C. Ferries currently has four hybrid-electric Island-class ferries under construction with Damen Shipyards Group of the Netherlands.

That order follows the recent delivery of two Damen-built Island-class ferries, the Island Discovery and the Island Aurora, set to come into service this year. The two vessels were built in Damen’s Romanian shipyard.

In January, B.C. Ferries announced that Remontowa Shipbuilding S.A. had won the contract to build a liquefied-natural-gas-fuelled vessel. That vessel will be identical to the three Salish-class vessels the company earlier built. The new ferry is expected to go into service in the Southern Gulf Islands in 2022.

Marshall said B.C. Ferries has been in contact with representatives of both Damen in Romania and Remontowa in Poland and the ships remain on schedule.

B.C. Ferries is in the midst of renewing its fleet and had been planning for major capital infrastructure investments onshore. But it’s unclear what will happen now that the company is losing millions of dollars every week due to massive service cutbacks, worked out in consultation with the province, stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are currently reviewing all capital projects due to financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Marshall said.

B.C. Ferries had issued layoff notices to many employees but rescinded them last week in hopes it would qualify for financial help under the new federal wage-subsidy program.

There’s been no word on that yet, Marshall said. “We continue to work with officials in Ottawa.”

Times Colonist