The Vancouver Island Ferry Company wants travellers to say ‘hello’ to Hullo — a new passenger ferry service gearing up to offer roundtrip sailings between Nanaimo and Vancouver via high-speed catamaran vessels.
Sailings are set to start in late summer 2023, with a complete list of service details like rates, schedules and amenities to be released in early June, VIFC says.
Up to seven daily roundtrip sailings will depart early enough “for Island commuters to get to their downtown Vancouver offices” and run late enough “for travellers to catch an evening game or concert and return home the same night,” according to the company in a news release Wednesday.
VIFC is headquartered in Nanaimo and says trips should take about 70 minutes and sail from downtown terminals, including at the Nanaimo Port Authority at 100 Port Dr. — near BC Ferries’ Nanaimo Harbour terminal — and the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre next to Burrard Landing at 1055 Canada Pl.
“It’s amazing. We’re so excited,” said the company’s co-founder and chairman Rupesh Amin.
“What we’re creating here is an extension of the public transit system or the mass transit system, and I think what this is going to be able to do is allow people to freely commute back and forth,” Amin said in an interview with CHEK News.
Hullo’s slogan, meanwhile, is “New kids on the dock,” as marketed on its website.
VIFC says the initial fleet consists of a pair of vessels built by Vietnam-based Damen Group, each with a capacity of 354 passengers and three “service tiers” — comfort, premium and business — as well as free Wi-Fi and fresh treats on board.
“The Hullo vessels are painted in a trio of brand colours representing different elements of the West Coast: the deep green of the Salish Sea, the soft, light beige of the sandy shores, and a bold orange hue inspired by the coast’s Arbutus trees,” states the release.
“The vessels are built and going through rigorous sea trials, and the terminal areas are in the process of being upgraded to welcome our guests. Hullo is in ship-shape and almost ready to serve its communities,” adds VIFC’s CEO Alastair Caddick.
Back in November 2022 when the ferry service was first announced, Nanaimo MLA Shelia Malcolmson said it was something she had been working towards for years.
“We’ve been pushing for this for a decade,” Malcolmson told CHEK News at the time. “My 2015 and my 2019 election were all about the fast ferry and I’m so excited we are here today.”
On Wednesday, VIFC representatives, alongside representatives from the Nanaimo Port Authority and Snuneymuxw First Nation, hosted a groundbreaking event at 100 Port Dr. to mark the start of site construction, which includes more than 400 parking stalls, EV charging stations, a guest welcome centre and traffic and transit flow upgrades in Nanaimo.
“Excited and very happy that this service has finally come to fruition,” said Snuneymuxw First Nation Chief Mike Wyse at the event.
“What we’re building today is a company that’s going to be here 50 years from now,” added VIFC’s Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer Sekhar Angepat.
On VIFC’s website, several job postings are also listed as of Wednesday, including captain, chief engineer and business systems analyst, with Caddick noting the company is “recruiting impeccable individuals who will offer B.C. travellers an enjoyable, reliable, and efficient travel experience to and from the mainland.”
VIFC is proud to finally introduce you to @hulloferries! Hullo is the face of our fast-ferry service, connecting you between Nanaimo and Vancouver with ease. Visit https://t.co/H9kcuwCcqI for more details!#SayHullo #HulloFerries #VIFC
— Vancouver Island Ferry Company (@vanferryco) April 19, 2023
More information about Hullo can be found online.