Bowen may get bigger ferry with fewer amenities

Russ Francis

(The Bowen Island Undercurrent, September 1st 1995, p1: with permission)

First the good news -- Bowen is in line for a bigger, faster ferry.

But it will have no snack bar, fewer crew and passengers will be expected to sit in their cars for the trip.

Though it's not been finally decided exactly which routes will get the new $18 million "Century class" ferries being built, Bowen is one of three routes being considered.

The open-deck ferries will carry 100 cars, up by 15 from the Queen of Capilano, which would be transferred to other routes.

Their passenger capacity will be 600, compared with a maximum of 450 on the Capilano.

Since most passengers are expected to remain in their cars during the slightly shorter trip, there will be fewer seats, says B.C. Ferries spokesman Clay Suddaby.

"We anticpate people will pretty much stay in their vehicles," Suddaby said.

Carless wonders will be able to sit in one of four passenger compartments, two forward and two aft. Passengers can feed themselves with the help of vending machines, as the new ferries will have no snack bar.

"They're designed with minimum amenities," Suddaby said. "It makes sense to have a more cost effective vessel.

He said most of the savings will come from more efficient diesel engines developed since the Capilano was built in 1991.

B.C. Ferries did not consult with its highly touted "stakeholder groups" before putting out the call to tender for the new ships, he added.

However, they will be asked about which routes they are deployed on.

Suddaby added that the crewing levels have yet to be decided, but Bowen Island Transportation Committee member Pat McGuire said the new vessels will run with just seven crew.

This compares with 12 for the Capilano

McGuire isn't happy about the four separate passenger compartments: "In bad weather it's not going to be fun."

But she welcomes the cost savings.

"The opinion of a lot of people is that it is more economically suitable for Bowen," McGuire said. "We need something cheaper."

B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers' Union president Ken Michael said Thursday that though B.C. Ferries fleet is aging, the Capilano is younger than all but the superferries. Michael said that while there has been no discussion about the number of crew on the new ferries, the union will likely object to thew machines replacing the snack bar.

"We will be trying for maximum service," Michael said.

He added that if the machines are installed, the union will want to have its members servicing them: "We would definitely be looking for spinoff jobs."

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