WATCH: The state of B.C. Ferries aging fleet is prompting the corporation to start planning for new vessels. On Tuesday, it took the first step in replacing its C-class vessels. But as Mary Griffin reports, the pressure is on to build locally.
One of the ships BC Ferries is planning to replace is the Queen of Cowichan.
It’s one of C Class vessels. At the time of their construction, the vessels were the largest ferries in the world.
But the vice-president of strategy and community engagement for BC Ferries, Mark Wilson, said an aging fleet of ferries means the corporation is looking ahead to replace them.
“We’re in a fairly aggressive capital renewal program here at BC Ferries. The average age of our fleet right now is 31 years. And anyway you slice it, and dice it, we need to build ten to 15 ships over the next ten to 15 years,” Wilson said.
The Queen of Alberni, Queen of Coquitlam, Queen of Cowichan, Queen of Oak Bay and Queen of Surrey were constructed in B.C. in the 1970s and 1980s.
But most of the shipbuilding work is now done overseas, the including the latest three Salish class ships, which were built in Poland.
But Premier Horgan wants to change that.
“That would certainly be my preference. We’ve had 16 years of shipbuilding on the BC Liberal watch outsourced to other nations. Paying mortgages in Germany, in Poland, training German workers, training Polish workers,” Horgan said.
In May, the Association of British Columbia Marine Industries met with BC Ferries, focusing on building ferries in BC.
It estimates that every dollar spent on new construction in BC translates up to $2.3 for British Columbians.
Wilson insists it would prefer Canadian-made as much as possible.
“As a customer, we’re working very, very closely with industry here to do what we can to make sure we get as much Canadian content in these vessels. And also to encourage industry as a customer to participate in this process,” Wilson said.
“We’re looking at all of the options available to make sure that there are community benefits when public monies are expended,” Horgan said.