A last-ditch effort is being launched to sell the former BC Ferries fastcat (fast catamaran) vessels, which notoriously ran over budget to build and underperformed when they entered service in the late 1990s.
In 1994, the then-NDP government announced a $210 million, 10-year capital plan to build three fastcat ferries in the province to add to the BC Ferries fleet.
The provincial government hoped that building the ferries in British Columbia would help bolster the marine industry.
However, the cost of the project quickly doubled in price, ballooning past $450 million, and the ferries were criticized for their poor fuel efficiency, repeated breakdowns and for creating too much wake for the environment once they did start running.
The controversial ferries, which CHEK News referred to as the “fastcat fiasco” in the early 2000s, were pulled from service by the Liberal government in 2003, just a few years after they entered service in late 1999.
The ferries were then sold to Washington Marine Group for about $20 million, a fraction of their construction cost.
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Where are the ferries now?
The ferries passed hands several times in the decades since and are currently languishing in port in Egypt.
Robert Arthurs, owner of Robert A Arthurs International, posted on Facebook Marketplace on Jan. 11 listing the three ferries for sale in a last-ditch effort to save them from the scrapyard.
He says an engineer who has been tasked with scrapping the B.C.-made ferries knew of their history and reached out to him to see if they could be saved.
“Two of them had only been run for nine months and the third hadn’t even been used at all,” Arthurs told CBC News on Friday.
“And he (the engineer) said, ‘you know, it’s just not right, they’re not anywhere near their end of life.’”
Arthurs admits he’s not exactly confident that the ferries will sell, but he hopes that someone will take an interest before the engineer starts taking apart the aluminum that holds the ferries together, and pulls out the interior of the ill-fated catamarans.
“They’re still in really good condition, other than maybe a paint job,” he said. “It would be a shame to see these things dismantled and put away.”
While the fastcats have a troubled history in British Columbia, Arthurs says their construction had some silver linings.
“As much as they were a negative thing to the economy, there was a positive side too,” he said from North Vancouver.
“We trained thousands of workers to weld in aluminum that were not trained before. So these ferries trained a lot of welders who are now in the rail industry who are welding aluminum train cars,” said Arthurs.
The ferries are now up for sale for $15 million USD each, though there could be wiggle room from that asking price.
Arthurs says he imagines the ferries could be used either as transportation again, or as a private yacht.
He says he’s already received a flurry of emails about the ferries, some promising and some that are not, including interest from North America.