Canada Infrastructure Bank lends $75 million for BC Ferries electrification

Canada Infrastructure Bank lends $75 million for BC Ferries electrification
File photo.
BC Ferries' Island Kwigwis currently sails between Nanaimo and Gabriola Island.

The Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) is lending $75 million to BC Ferries to help purchase four zero-emission ferries and install the required charging infrastructure.

“We’re really excited about this investment,” said Ehren Cory, CIB’s CEO. “This is our first investment in the ferry space.”

Cory says discussions for the loan first started about a year ago, and the crown corporation’s low-interest loan will keep the ferry service affordable.

While CIB doesn’t disclose its interest costs, Cory says the loans are typically longer term and lower cost than other financial institutions can offer.

“To allow those long term investments to happen sooner and to help manage the costs of them over the long term,” said Cory.

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BC Ferries announced in January that Damen Shipyards Group in the Netherlands would build four more environmentally friendly and quieter Island Class ferries. Two ferries will connect Nanaimo Harbour and Gabriola Island, while the other two will go between Campbell River and Quadra Island.

The current ferries serving the two routes have had loading issues at extreme low tides. The existing diesel-hybrid vessels will be transferred to other routes to replace ferries that have reached their end of life.

Repayment of the investment will come from standard operating revenues comprised of passenger fares and retail revenues.

The investment expands CIB’s transportation portfolio which has invested heavily in transit and zero-emission buses.

“If we want to modernize our transit systems across the country, yes, subway, buses LRTs (Light Rail Transit) are all a very important part of that, but so are ferries,” said Cory.

Battery electric ferries and terminal upgrades are to be completed by fiscal 2027 and are estimated to reduce 9,000 tonnes of GHG emissions annually.

In a statement, BC Ferries president and CEO Nicholas Jimenez says the loan is a win-win.

“Our partnership with the CIB to deliver these new Island Class vessels will increase system capacity, improve our flexibility to move ships across routes and make it easier to train and deploy our teams…All of this increases our passengers’ confidence we’ll get them where they need to go in a safe, reliable and environmentally conscious way,” he said.

BC Ferries has 37 vessels serving 25 routes out of 47 terminals.

In fiscal 2024, BC Ferries carried 22.6 million passengers and 9.5 million vehicles.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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