Times Colonist

Cable ferry operator sought for Denman

- SANDRA MCCULLOCH smcculloch@timescolon­ist.com

B.C. Ferries may add a cable ferry to its fleet to service the 1.9-km route between Buckley Bay, south of Courtenay, and Denman Island.

The ferry corporatio­n said Tuesday it is seeking expression­s of interest from experience­d operators with a closing date of Nov. 22.

If qualified operators come forward, a request for proposals will be issued, B.C. Ferries spokeswoma­n Deborah Marshall said.

If a suitable operator is found, the cable-ferry service would begin no later than April 2014.

A Vancouver naval engineer said such a project “is an exceptiona­lly unusual and very long distance on which to use a cable ferry.

“We have designed dozens of these and most of them are making short lake or river crossings, 100- to 200-metre distances typically,” said Robert Allan, chairman of Robert Allan Ltd. Naval Architects and Marine Engineers.

“When you’re mid-span you’re subject to all the forces of wind and waves that would be exerting a sideways force on the vessel as it makes the transit.”

“I know that crossing is relatively shallow so you’ll get short, steep waves. There’s no fundamenta­l reason why it could not work if it’s properly engineered.”

A cable ferry would be a similar size to the current convention­al ferry, carrying 50 vehicles and 150 passengers. It would be cheaper to buy and operate, Marshall said. The current convention­al ferry has a crew of six. A cable ferry would require only three.

There are a number of smaller ferries in operation on B.C. lakes and rivers that are pulled by cables, instead of having their own engines and steering.

B.C. Ferries has obtained regulatory approval for a cable ferry, including terminal modificati­ons and an undersea cable, under the Canadian Environmen­tal Assessment Act.

It has yet to obtain approval under the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Crown Land Act.

There are cable ferries of a similar size operating in Europe, Marshall said.

“There are lots of other cable ferries around the world,” she said.

“We’re basically testing the waters to see if there is an experience­d cable ferry operator interested in the service.”

Buckley Bay to Denman is the only route in the B.C. Ferries system on which a cable ferry could operate, Marshall said.

The operator would be responsibl­e for all aspects of the management, operations and maintenanc­e of the vessel and cable system. The operator would also provide the crew.

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