Nanaimo’s underused cruise ship terminal could soon be busy.

The terminal is where Island Ferry Services wants to dock its passenger-only ferry between Nanaimo and Vancouver.

The Port of Nanaimo says they’ve reached a 20-year lease.

“We’re very excited for it,” said Ian Marr, Nanaimo Port Authority’s senior vice-president.

“We’ve come to an agreement with them and we’re happy we just hoping that the other side works out for them and they can get all their ducks in a row and start in the summer.”

Island Ferry Services said their ships are being built in Malaysia and they’re more optimistic than they have been in a long time about getting the service started.

“We still need to complete our discussions with TransLink and we need to put in place the final financing which has a number of components,” said David Marshall, spokesperson for Island Ferry Services.

“There’s movement in the right direction on the financing piece, enough that we can say with some confidence we’ll be running this summer.”

The new ferry has become an issue in Nanaimo’s ongoing provincial byelection. Candidates from all parties say it’s a priority and say the government should help fund its start-up.

“Nanaimo is a harbour city and having transportation that is specifically harbour to harbour linked given how many people are living in Vancouver but can afford to buy homes here in Nanaimo,” said Sheila Malcolmson, the B.C. NDP’s candidate.

“If there’s an opportunity to support members of our community to commute and leaving our cars at home I think that’s a great idea,” said Michelle Ney, the BC Green Party’s candidate.

B.C. Liberal Party candidate Tony Harris was off Vancouver Island today but says in a release he’s convinced there is demand for the service and governments should be at the table to make it a reality.

Island Services says traffic between Nanaimo and Vancouver has nearly returned to pre-recession levels. Once the ferry starts sailing it will employ 105 people, 85 of whom would be based in Nanaimo.

Kendall Hanson